Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flag Day!

The Friday before Flag Day I found out I received a 3/3 on my Arabic exam! Most government agencies assess language skills based on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale, and a 3/3 translates as "general professional proficiency." While that sounds like a pretty inflated assessment of my skills, I'll take the compliment-especially because it gets me off language probation and one step closer to meeting tenure requirements!

Fast forward to Monday, June 7th: Flag Day. I don't think I've been that anxious in a looong time. It was all I could do to stay focused during the morning sessions. Never before had one moment in time had such an impact on my life and future, and I have absolutely no control over it! Where will I live? When will I leave? Can Gene come with me? Will he be able to find a job? Will we get engaged? Can the cats come with me? All of my "what if" questions would finally come to an end once the name of my post was announced. No more hypotheticals. I would finally be able to plan my life again.

Two of my best friends accompanied Gene to Flag Day. I was so glad to have friendly faces in the audience, yet my nervousness couldn't be assuaged. When it was finally time to take our seats, I grabbed a spot in the front row with a few friends. Armed with a copy of the bid list, I first crossed off the names of posts that wouldn't be filled by our class. One by one, city names were read and happy colleagues made their way to the front to claim their flag. Several of my "high" posts were called, including Cairo. I was really starting to wonder where I was going to go....my guess was between Jeddah and Jerusalem. After Sana'a was called, then Jeddah, I was pretty sure Jerusalem was it. Then a flag came up for a post I had ranked high, but really didn't think I had a chance to get. Not only would it use my language skills, but it would fulfill my one year Consular requirement as well as provide a year of in-cone Political training. It also had fabulous weather and food, plus a high differential and plenty of R&Rs. I looked back at my class, trying to guess who would get this exciting post. Then, all of a sudden, I heard my name....

I'm going to Beirut!!!

I spent the rest of the ceremony tracking my colleagues' posts, but once the event was over it was all I could do not to jump for joy and cheer. I'm off to Lebanon in September!!! Wahooooo!

I've Got Skills

After we turned in our bid lists, the next week and a half was spent honing a variety of skills needed to be a successful FSO. We had an overnight retreat out in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia that consisted of a plethora of team building exercises. I was very disappointed not to spend two days doing trust falls and ropes courses, we had a lot of fun getting to know one another and hanging out outside of the office setting!

The following week we worked on "core skills": public speaking, speech writing, and fielding questions in a variety of settings. I wish I could say I handled all of this with grace, but man public speaking makes me nervous! I did my best to be confident, and I definitely think I did better answering questions from the public, but I really need to work on delivering speeches. If I do say so myself, I think I wrote a decent speech. However standing behind that lectern, all confidence, eye contact, and a steady voice went out the window. Not really sure how long it will take, but I see plenty of sessions in front of the mirror in my future....  

Three Weeks Later

Well, I thought I would be much better about updating this blog. So much has transpired since my last entry that instead of writing one long posting, I'm going to break it up into topics. Flag Day, Swearing-In, getting ready for my first post...but let's back up to The Woods.