Friday, October 26, 2012

Side Tracked

Coming back to the DC area in mid-July has given us a luxurious three months of summer, something we've longed for after spending a year at 64 degrees and partly-cloudy in Bogota, preceded by decades in the Pacific Northwest where the sun can be, well, scant some years. But now it's truly fall and we get to enjoy a colorful change of seasons - also something we've missed out on living near the Equator and in the Evergreen State, where things tend to stay mostly green year 'round. We recently headed out to the explore our new surroundings: the towns, mountains and countryside of northern Virginia. 

There's a strong storm descending upon us in the coming days which will undoubtedly strip our lovely pumpkin-colored trees of all their foliage. So I'm glad we were able to enjoy the following scenery in time and share it here. Brought to you by the Shenandoah National Park - I give you the Blue Ridge Mountains and their surroundings in October:

Let me hear your best John Denver now: "Country roads, take me home..."

Meanwhile, back at the FSI ranch - I've just completed two weeks post-ConGen of some really great classes which have included everything from writing annual evaluations to driving backwards at 30 mph; from recognizing stages of learning to recognizing stages of hypothermia and shock; from setting employee goals to setting our sights on targets at the range - it's been a whirlwind of training! But everything will soon settle into a steady routine soon as I head back down the hall to the Spanish Department. 

Coming next: Back to the land of language training

Friday, October 12, 2012

Points of Pride

It feels like I've noted a whole slew of milestones reached over the past year and a half of this blog, but I get to tell you about one more, and it might be my favorite. 
On Wednesday, along with 23 classmates, I graduated from ConGen! 

This means we each successfully completed (with 100% attendance required) six weeks of intensive study for our assignments as Consular Officers. I have a dandy certificate to prove it, a head full of FAM references and binders full of notes, but more than that, I have (now, really!) finally achieved what has kept me motivated since May 2009 when I first heard of what a Consular Officer was. Through an entire summer dedicated to preparing for my first FS Officer's Test, to the disappointment of not making it all the way through the hiring process on the first try, to the excitement of going to my first assignment as an OMS - the spot on the horizon I've always kept in focus has been this job. 

So yesterday was a personal celebration for me. As my first day without an FSI class to attend, I spent part of it in Arlington National Cemetery in quiet reflection. Under brilliant blue skies and crisp early-autumn sunshine, I walked through the rows of headstones and statues and took in the perfect view of DC by myself. Being in that setting reminded me of the importance of service and of creating a life whose focus is outwards, not inwards. Naturally I can't compare my potential service or sacrifice to that of those memorialized at Arlington, but I am proud that it's something, that it's what I can do now. 

To top it off, we just learned that on September 22nd, our A-100 class list was sent to the Senate for Presidential Nomination. To excerpt the Library of Congress website:

Presidential Nominations
112th Congress (2011 - 2012)

Legislative Actions
Floor Action: September 10, 2012 - Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Floor Action: September 22, 2012 - Senate Committee on Foreign Relations discharged by Unanimous Consent.
Floor Action: September 22, 2012 - Confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote.

I'm not entirely sure what else comes next in the process, but just to know that my name was in some way passing through Congress, well - I think that's pretty cool. 

And today the 169th A-100 class will have their Flag Day, and I will be in the back of the room cheering them on. There should be a few new Ciudad Juarez colleagues receiving their tiny Mexican flags, so I plan to be there to welcome them in, just as I was received on my own Flag Day almost two months ago. Each week, more of my classmates head for the airports and we're already receiving word back from colleagues in Saudi Arabia, Mali, NYC and Paraguay. While we're having lunch in the FSI cafeteria, they're out sinking their teeth into the meat of the work that we're still learning about. By the time I start my Spanish classes, some of my ConGen friends will already be in their interview windows, putting all of our training to work. 

To top it off, my husband was granted a spot in his own ConGen course, and just one week into it is now saying things like, "I'd like to, but I've got homework and case studies to work on today..." when we start making weekend plans. We hope that this training will set him up for a job inside the Consulate, but there are no guarantees. The security and economic situation in Juarez isn't as favorable for work on the local economy as it was in Bogota, so we're hoping this will be a good avenue for him. And who knows - maybe he will be so enthralled with the subject matter that he'll consider making it a career, too?  

Just a bit of sentimental pride to share with you all today. Once in a while I think it's important to slow down and really taste the tangerine.