Archive for June, 2007

Moving on after orientation

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

So, this week began our regular training. John is in a two-week class on Western Hemisphere. In addition to good lectures, his class made a couple of field trips (to a Peruvian restaurant and to the American Indian Museum) and watched some movies during lunch.

I had a two-day overseas security seminar with scary topics, like how to survive bio-chemical attacks and hostage situations. Who’d have thought I’d ever be in a job where a class like this is mandatory?! It was all pretty interesting and definitely held my attention!

On Thursday I started a five-and-a-half week Spanish self-study, so currently I’m doing Rosetta Stone from home. It’s sort of an odd assignment, but it’s also really nice not to have to go into the training center every day. I’ll go in occasionally to check email and socialize at lunch.

We’ve had two nice dinners out with classmates this week – last night at Harry’s with Marcy, and Thursday at a good Lebanese place in Adams Morgan with Richard S.

Yesterday morning was a lot of fun – we went to the National Zoo, which is really nice. It was gorgeous outside (70s with low humidity). My favorites were the lemurs (I love their eyes) and the gorillas. While we were at the gorilla habitat, they were each given a big brown paper bag with veggies. One of the “teenagers” stole another one’s bag, while the big silverback munched on his carrots. We also liked the small mammal house because we got to see the meerkats.

This afternoon we are off to a classmate’s house in Silver Spring for a cookout.

Swearing In

Sworn In

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

With Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Stephens, our class mentor

So, I guess it’s official! We were officially sworn in as FSO’s on Friday with Under Secretary Nick Burns doing the honors. We were happy to have John’s parents, Pete and Ginger, here for the occasion, and got the chance to introduce them to classmates during the reception beforehand. We celebrated with dinner at our favorite restaurant, Harry’s (home of a great martini).

We spent Saturday sightseeing with Pete and Ginger, doing a city tour in the morning and going to the Bodies exhibit in the afternoon (this is a cool exhibit with real human bodies – I really can’t even describe it).

I read a wonderful book last week, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s a great read about a man who worked in a traveling circus during the Depression. It’s basically a love story, told via flashbacks from his current days in a nursing home.

The cats are doing well – Flavia still likes to sleep under the bed, but comes out when we are home.


With one of my favorite classmates, Marcy (Sao Paulo)

In the home stretch

Friday, June 15th, 2007

We finished our classes yesterday and are at the end of our 7-week orientation! This morning we’ll head downtown for our swearing in ceremony, along with John’s parents, Pete and Ginger, who drove in yesterday.

Being pushed out of the nest is both exciting and scary! Now we start actual training classes (Spanish, cultural studies and how to be a consular officer), as well navigating the bureaucracy (getting our new passports and visas). We’ve met a couple of co-workers who will be in Ciudad Juarez with us and had good communication with folks already at post – everyone seems really nice.

Wish us luck this morning!

Roller coaster

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

With two classmates Ben (China) and Stephen (Saudi Arabia
What a week this has been. Classes were pretty intense for me leading up to Flag Day (the day we received our assignments)…then Flag Day…then more classes and thinking about our new assignments. There’s a collective sigh of relief that this week is over!

On the morning of Flag Day, we had to do a “composure under fire” exercise in front of the entire class – I was one of six lucky participants. It’s pretty intimidating to be thrown questions about American foreign policy from the rest of the class who were posing as journalists. I survived, and it definitely took my mind off of the upcoming Flag Day ceremony later that afternoon.

So then…the Flag Day ceremony itself. There are dignitaries, our class instructors and our Career Development Officers down front with little flags from all the countries. They hold up a flag…the class shouts out the country name…then they announce who is going to that country for that position, you walk down front to collect your flag and do a photo op. It’s all random – for example, the Mexican flags were interspersed with the other countries, so I was called for Ciudad Juarez, and about 10 people later, John was called for it. It’s all quite suspenseful and exciting. One guy literally did backflips down the aisle as he went to collect his flag. Afterwards we all gathered at a watering hole known for its beer selection, so everyone could get a beer from their new country. Corona Light for me, please.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ciudad Juarez came out of left field for us, but the more we hear about the post and the work there, the more excited we are. It’s not glamorous by any means, but there are lots of positives about it. The work will be very interesting, especially in light of all the immigration debate. Our correspondence so far with post management has been very friendly and positive. My favorite thing is that we won’t have to fly the cats down since we’ll be driving, which is a huge relief for me. We’re also excited about exploring more of the American Southwest as well as parts of Mexico. So, we are really getting excited. I scored pretty well on my Spanish exam (which I also had this week), so I should be able to leave in December with John, too!

The rest of the week was quite social with dinners and happy hours. Yesterday I went with about 40 other classmates on a Virginia wine country tour – we chartered a bus and went to three vineyards. The countryside was beautiful and it was a fun outing.

Life’s good! We are still pinching ourselves that we are here!

Sarah (Caracas), Scott (Monterrey), Michelle (Chennai) and John (¡Ciudad Juarez!)


And the winner is…

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Ciudad Juarez!

John and I are very pleased with this assignment! It was a little out of left field for us, but the post really wanted John’s management skills. He’ll combine management with consular work, while I’ll be doing straight consular work. As you can imagine, it’s a very busy consular post.

The tentative schedule has John leaving for Mexico in December, with me following in February (or sooner if I can test out of Spanish sooner).

More details later…we are off to celebrate with our classmates now!