Saturday, September 25, 2010

Into the Woods Then Out of the Woods And Happy Ever After

I have returned unscathed from The Woods, a two-day retreat in West Virginia for leadership training and A-100 class bonding.  The precise nature of the goings-on at The Woods have been (and will remain) a carefully guarded secret, so I was expecting a toxic mix of summer camp, cheesy corporate team-building, and my last less-than-stellar experience of WV vacations (ask me about the caramelized onions).  The reality was much, much better.

The food was good, the facilities were quite nice, and while the activities did sometimes carry a faint whiff of fromage they were genuinely fun and I had a great time.  It was also nice to have a couple of extra days out of my monkey suit.  The Follies, the traditional student-run variety show, turned out to be uproariously funny.  Unlike my previous experiences with such things at Girl Scout camp and the like, I was not forced to participate in any capacity except my strongest: clapping.  And clap I did.  However,  later in the evening after a stiff drink or two (another key amenity lacking from Girl Scout camp) I may have persuaded myself to grab the karaoke mic and sing "Material Girl".  Dignity is overrated.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Are You?

I've been very busy/lazy over the last couple of days, fit only for working or lying around doing nothing. On Monday we had a session on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), something I am quite familiar with since Dad discovered it some fifteen years ago and made us all take the test. I've taken it a number of times since then, because career counselors and such are always very keen to know your MBTI type.

I've usually been an INTJ but I ended up as ISTJ this time, though barely. Here's what my little personalized handout says about ISTJs:
  • Dependable, practical, sensible and realistic
  • Responsible and loyal to organizations, family, and relationships
  • Likely to value procedures, structures, and rules
  • Most comfortable when roles and responsibilities are clearly defined
In other words, I'm the perfect cog for a vast bureaucratic machine. A vast bureaucratic machine such as, for instance, the U.S. Department of State. I have clearly found my calling. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One Week Down, Four To Go

It's been a very long week. Not in a bad way - I'm having a great time - but with so much new information, so many new people, new places, and new forms to fill out I'm definitely ready for a little down time. Yay weekend!

The more I learn about the places on my bid list the more excited I get about my first post. I'm now imagining a variety of wildly different potential lives in all kinds of places, some of which I knew nothing about a week ago. One never knows what the future holds, but I think I can pretty confidently say that this is unlikely to happen to me:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So, Where Are You Going?

Over the last couple of months, everyone I've told I was joining the Foreign Service has responded either with "...the what?" or the question above. The answer to that question has been, and remains, "I dunno." But today was a very exciting day because we received our bid list, the list of jobs available for the 156th A-100 class to fill. This narrows it down a bit.

The list is not what I had imagined it to be. While I was waiting to get here I had months and months to mull over all the places in the world, and which ones I would really like to go to and which ones I'm not so keen on. Well, most of my most-wanted cities turn out not to be on the list; on the other hand, most of my least-wanted aren't on there either. I have to rank every position as high, medium, or low. This is going to take some time and some research. I suspect a fairly complex spreadsheet will be in order.

But at the same time as I decide to prefer this place over that one and these over those, I have to keep in mind that I may end up at any of them anyway. When the list came out one of my classmates said it felt like Christmas, and another replied that we are at the stage where you shake your present to guess what's inside. This is a perfect metaphor. I wish I had thought of it myself.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to School

I have now completed two whole days of my new career at State. They haven't fired me yet. Monday was "in-processing," which, despite the ominous undertones of the name, did not involve having a microchip implanted in my neck to connect me with the hive mind. It was mostly paperwork. Today was my first day at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), where I'll be spending most of the next five weeks. So far it's like being in grad school again except the days are longer, the homework is shorter, and everyone's in suits instead of jeans and sneakers. In fact, it's so much like grad school that I keep seeing my old SAIS comrades out of the corner of my eye, only to to blink and watch them transform into someone else, someone new I think I met briefly but whose name I have not yet learned. There are 94 of us in the 156th A-100 class, so I'm going to be reading nametags for a while.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to Reality

I'm back in DC after an unnecessarily long travel day involving not one but two flights with screaming babies in my immediate vicinity. On the other hand, the hellishness of the actual travel went a long way towards reorienting my perspective from "I'm so sad to be leaving Houston" to "I'm so glad to finally be in DC!" The lovely weather and pretty view from the cab on Lee Highway also helped.

However, my self-indulgent summer is definitively over. It's fall, and it's time to go back to work. The days of unstructured time and parentally-sponsored restaurant meals are over. It's probably just as well though - I'll need some structure, parsimony, and earned income to dispose of the extra credit card debt and fifteen pounds I acquired while indulging my every whim over the last few months. Delightful? Yes. Sustainable? No.

Tonight there's a cocktail party where I will meet my A-100 class, 90-some strangers who, I'm told, will become my closest friends. And tomorrow I somehow have to get myself to Main State by 7:45 a.m. in a suit to begin my new adventure. I suspect a very large cup of coffee will be required.

The Before-Times

Blog archives can be found here until I sort out how to move them to the new site. If any webgeeks out there want to help I'd be super appreciative.

Those of you who are interested in how I got to be a Foreign Service Officer might want to click here, where I have compiled all my FS-tagged posts. There's not much flow, but I hope you find it useful.