I would like to start today by wishing a Feliz Cumpleanos to two of the Tabbies:
Dodger and Daphne turned 14 today. This isn't the best picture, unless you're really curious about what the back of our closet looked like a year ago when the movers came to pack up all THEIR furniture. I took it because it was the first time since they were little kittens that they snuggled so close to each other. Sorry about the closed eyes; I was using the flash. Anyway, Happy Birthday to my two litter mate tabbies, my loves. Toby - you're next buddy!
Today was important for a few more reasons, too.
Let me start this section by saying that I am sooo loving stretching out in the luxury of my own native tongue right now. Full trains of thought effortlessly slip my from brain to my fingertips. No dictionaries, no thumbing through notebooks or loose hand-outs, no seeing what Google Translate has to say, and then backing it up with Word Reference. No, I can just talk or type and I don't sound like an idiot (okay, okay - how about just an occasional goofball?). I don't have that sinking feeling that five year-olds within earshot are itching to correct me when they hear me say something so obviously not right.
See, I took my (maldito) Spanish test today. Yeah... not too happy about it either. As you may remember, this test has seriously career-changing implications. If I pass - and I'm about 96.7% sure that I did not - I will receive extra points on the Consular register which will sling-shot me towards the head of the class. Without these points, my chance of getting called on to become a Consular Officer is, well, bromoso, err, I mean foggy.
I've been taking Spanish classes at the Embassy three mornings per week since I arrived. Recently I hired a private tutor via Skype for lessons twice per week. I've been practicing with my Colombian co-workers over lunches and even did a marathon session on Saturday of about 5 hours of non-stop Spanish with a couple we know. I have to speak Spanish to our porteros (doormen) in the building whose version of the language frequently baffles me; I occasionally scare taxi drivers with my urge to make small-talk, and I chat with my co-volunteers at the animal shelter every Sunday. I HAVE BEEN TRYING! Is I guess what I'm getting at here.
But this morning, as I sat on the floor in the spare room, taking my exam via speaker phone to FSI and speaking what I had imagined would be complete, clear, grammatically correct and conjugationally-diverse sentences... I realized that really I was just rambling and not enunciating my vowels clearly enough to allow the examiners to distinguish between "pueden" and "puedan" (indicative vs. subjunctive - big difference) and frankly - sinking. I spoke for 23 minutes on a variety of topics. I can't be specific as we have a strict non-disclosure agreement for all stages of the FS testing process, but I can say that the topics they asked me about we not the ones I'd imagined leading them towards in my cleverly-crafted introductory gettin'-to-know-you part. I had mentally crafted stories about working on the Summit, about Colombia's Free Trade Agreement with the US, about all sorts of cool things that if I were an examiner - I'd want to hear about! Nope, they didn't bite. So instead I rambled on trying vainly to answer their questions and I'm fairly certain I failed. I will know sometime next week when I call the Board of Examiners and get some perfectly polite receptionist who looks my name up in a database and in one perfectly polite sentence, dashes my dreams.
So that's that.
But wait - there's a bit more:
In a huff, I wrote to the Consular Registar and told them to reinstate my candidacy. My in-case-of-emergency-break-glass shot has been taken. I am now actively on the register to become a Consular Officer, sitting proudly at number 25 out of 66. I got fairly excited hearing that news, until a few hours ago when I got a message from the candidate just in front of me saying that as of moments earlier, the registrar told her she was #27. Which means that in the space of one-third of one day, I dropped three spots to #28. The register is a cruel and mercurial mistress, and one's position can rise and fall like the stock market depending on the candidates in front of you. Who got pregnant and deferred? Whose candidacy expired? Who actually passed the maldito language test and just zipped past me? Who accepted an offer and is packing their bags to go to FSI? All these things affect one's standing on the register and the best one can do is just keep the day job and cross a bunch of fingers.
Oh, that and continue taking Spanish lessons because there's another exam with my name on it that will be scheduled for some time in November. Wish me luck.