Greetings from the middle of Week Five of A-100, where the content of our coursework has changed from being orientation-based (i.e. listening to subject matter experts) to actively jumping into learning the core skills of our new profession.
So what are "core skills" for entry-level diplomats?
Writing, public speaking and responding to difficult questions, among others. Our A-100 coordinators were clever enough to know that the week leading up to, as I call it, the Day That Changes Your Life (Flag Day!), is NOT the time to expect nearly 100 of us to sit politely and quietly, stuffed first into our suits and then into our under-sized classroom to listen to hours of information on travel allowances, health care options or voucher preparation. To help stem our anxious waiting, they've instead distracted us with other stomach-churning tasks, like "Composure Under Fire," or what has been dubbed, "shark week" by some. In this class we practice handling the difficult questions we may reasonably be expected to face once we're at our new posts. Our class has been divided into smaller groups, so if I draw a complete blue screen (my new favorite phrase) - it's only in front of a fraction of my highly-educated classmates, not all of them. Remember all that material I mentioned cramming to pass my FS Officers' Test two years ago? Yeah - that's the stuff I'm having to regurgitate under pressure. With confidence and without letting myself get flustered or dragged down verbal dead-end streets by mock angry student protesters or members of the press looking for soundbites. After this week - the anxiety of Flag Day will be a welcome relief!
On a lighter note, once again I find myself looking for signs about where our next assignment will be. Last year it was Toby's litter-box signals that led me to believe we were headed to Africa. Since his credibility as a soothsayer was brought into question, I've been looking for other signs. Such as seeing two car license plates in one day with the letters IND - does that mean we're headed for the Sub-Continent? What about my sudden craving for Shrimp Lo Mein? Are we China-bound? (I certainly hope not, because besides their one-child policy, they also have a two-pet policy for hopeful kitty importers.) I've even slowly run my finger down our bid-list, hoping in Ouija board style to receive some message from the printed words.
With 100 options on our bid-list, it dawned on me that we have a 1% chance of getting our favorite spot. Yes, following that same line of reasoning one should conclude that the less-desirable spots have the same odds, but still - it's hitting me that I need to steel myself for the very real possibility of being sent somewhere we hadn't even considered as a viable option.
Which brings me to another core skill that we've been soaking in lately: our pledge to be "worldwide available" and the value of hidden gems, pleasant surprises and other euphemisms for finding happiness in unexpected places - like your lowest-low post.
This will be my last post until after Flag Day. You may have to give me a day afterward to compose my thoughts and offer the news, but in the meanwhile, we couldn't be more eager to learn our fates.
I just love the fact that I get to have the thrill of two of these red-letter days in my FS career.
Vamos a ver...