A wise gardener once told me that for a successful garden, one should spend more money on the soil than on the plants. This is the tack I'm taking towards my upcoming training and first assignment as a Consular Officer.
Tomorrow, alongside a good number of my A-100 classmates, I will start "ConGen," the State Department's intensive training for all Consular officers. While you may have heard me say, "this is what I've been looking forward to for two years, three years..." in regards to oral assessments, Specialist Orientation, getting to our first post, starting A-100, Flag Day etc... THIS really is what I've been waiting to sink my teeth into!
Without being too much like Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick character in "Election," I want to be front and center in class each day, absorbing the details of the stuff I will be using every day, the heart of my new career. Then, once in Ciudad Juarez, I'm planning on taking advantage of what I've heard is great management and training for this massive Consular machine. All facets of Consular work will be available: immigrant visas, non-immigrant (tourist) visas and American Citizen Services. Not every post can say that. Oh, and the shiny new Consulate in Juarez has over 100 visa windows to man! (What kind of geek am I to be excited about that?)
While still in Bogota, one of the Consular Section supervisors gave me her best advice for someone starting out in this career path. She told me not to shy away from the Mexican border posts or the "visa mills" (we're not supposed to call them that anymore, but I don't have a better term yet) in India, Brazil or China, as they will provide a great foundation and breadth of experience for me.
This tour is not going to simply be a box to be checked off on a list of career requirements: danger post - check, Consular tour - check, get off language probation - check. While we undoubtedly would have more visitors had we been assigned to Athens or Rome, and fewer well-meaning friends touching us on the elbow and asking, "Are you okay with this?" about our assignment, I keep remembering that although everyone loves showy annual flowers - they will eventually lose their blooms. Starting in Juarez gets us right into the thick of things. This is the soil from which I hope a twenty-year State Department career will grow and then, in time, blossom. I can't wait to get my hands dirty in it!