Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It is officially getting closer to the end of my training here at FSI. Not too bold a statement to open with, as I've been talking about it for a while now, but today it came into sharper focus. This morning, just 15 feet from my classroom and what I had expected to be a usual day of Spanish lessons, I was met mid-hallway by one of the Spanish Section administrators and another teacher. They were there to intercept me and tell me that I'm no longer in my class and instead I'll be working one-on-one with this new teacher for my remaining two days. As one of my former teachers explained, "Yeah, it's because you're terminal now."

I'm terminal? That doesn't sound good.

Actually, the department is very good about giving extra time and attention to the students who are about to take their exams. I've had a handful of additional one-on-one times with various instructors which has let me practice hearing new accents. I'm getting smoother at presenting my own bio and at interviewing them about their home countries. It's all part of the grooming process.

I spent an hour this morning with Sofia, a very nice Puerto Rican woman and she did a great job of just letting me babble about subjects that interest me: not policy or politics or economic situations or immigration. Phew. I needed to get my words flowing and gain some confidence. She made minimal corrections, I think because I tend to auto-correct anyway, but I hope it wasn't because she was overlooking things. After our "gettin' to know ya'" hour, she gave me an article to read for the afternoon and I headed off to my last Andean Republics regional studies class. We watched a movie called "Crude" about a lawsuit against Texaco in Ecuador regarding contamination due to petroleum processing and exploration. I've enjoyed that class - for the most part - and have learned way more about the politics and current events in Colombia and the neighboring countries than I ever knew before, that's for sure. It will all be important to understand Colombia's place in the country, their history and our mission in Bogota.

Anyway, I saw one of my (former) classmates in the hallway and learned that I'd already been replaced by another student. Yup, my chair was probably still warm when what's-his-name took it this morning and mis companeros de clase moved on without me. And to think I spent over two hours on my homework last night. Hurrumph.

It's because I'm terminal.

My time here is coming to an end, like it or not, and everyone and everything will soldier on without my being here. The teachers are all accustomed to the routine: meeting new students, helping them through their difficulties, hearing their personal stories, watching them (hopefully) grow and them sending them down the road to the examiner's suite and then on to post to spread/inflict their skills to the citizens of nearly every country around the globe. Like being a parent in four quick weeks, perhaps? 

I ask you all to project really clear, funny, intelligent and perfectly-conjugated thoughts for me on Thursday, July 14 at 1000. I need to earn a 2/2, but I want more than that. My classmates are aiming for a 3/3 score, but they'll be here until September to achieve that. I will be fine with a 2, happy with a 2+ and dancing a jig in the street with a 3. However, unless planets align and I suddenly channel some native speaker with fewer brain freezes - there's no way I'm getting the 3, but boy it would be pretty darn cool.

No really, it's not going to happen 'cause I haven't learned all the necessary vocabulary, verb forms or even the requisite level of ease and fluidity necessary to express subtleties, abstract thoughts, discern tone and develop complex opinions. Heck, I'm happy if I can even do that in English! So instead, I'm going to do my best (such a cliche and further proof of the latter sentence) and try not to sweat my way through the nice business dress I've picked out to wear.

I'll let you know what happens.


  1. Good luck! Stay confident and you'll do great :)

  2. You'll do great Caitlin! I have a reminder set to think about you tomorrow at 9 am (Chicago time).

    I'm just sorry I won't get to meet you when my training starts 9/26.

  3. Thank you for all the encouraging wishes; I really appreciate them. And a big congrats to Melb26sa regarding your own orientation in September. It's a fun ride, very emotional with the complete life-overhaul that you'll undergo. Bring comfy (but stylish) shoes; sleep whenever you can; bring a back-pack, shoulder bag that you can carry for 4 months if needed (urgh) and a willingness to meet a bunch of great new colleagues!