Saturday, September 12, 2009


Hi Friends!

I am posting to you now from my new condo in Arlington, Virginia. I arrived yesterday evening (wow, was it only yesterday?) around 7:30PM EST - after beginning my journey on Thursday morning @ 7:15AM in Conway, AR. So, after about 12 hours on the road on Thursday, I arrived in Asheville, NC at Warren Wilson College where I met up with Emily Chiara - a very good friend from the Heifer Ranch. She is in her first semester there (after taking off one year after high school).

Emily, in downtown Asheville

Asheville was beautiful! The downtown area was amazing and we had a great time going out for sushi then hanging out at the Days Inn. Yesterday morning we had a special birthday breakfast at The Green Sage Cafe. It was fabulous - all organic, healthy, and you even got to compost your food scraps!

After I left Asheville I headed west... yes, you heard that right... I actually went west on I-40 for a few miles before turning back east. That was only one of many turn arounds I made during the day. I left at around 9:00AM that morning, anticipating arriving in Arlington between 4:00 and 5:00PM. Well, that obviously didn't happen. I blame the Blue Ridge Parkway - but not too harshly because she is BEAUTIFUL and I had some great moments out there. However, I spent about 26 miles trying to figure out how to get on the parkway and once I did, I discovered that many people enjoy "cruising" and soaking in the magnificent beauty. I, too, would have really enjoyed taking my time - but I had people waiting for me in Arlington. So, I needed to take in the views at a little faster pace.

Here is a shot from my car

Meanwhile, after I had covered a stretch of the parkway in about 3 hours (which would have probably taken only an hour on 81) I decided to rethink my plan and ended up in Roanoke - which, by the way, is a black hole of confusion and limited gas stations. I finally found my way to I-81 (thanks to the help of a friend) and headed north to Winchester, VA. After about 170 miles I cut over to I-66 which would run me straight to Arlington! That was the boost I needed to keep on truckin'. I was incredibly ready to be there at that point - and I was already well over an hour late.

(Finally approaching Washington!)

So, fast forward 70 miles and I am pulling into Arlington! Lauren, my roommate, talked me through some directions to "The Grove" condos and I pulled up just outside the front gate. She came down and met me. It was amazing to finally meet her - after we had been exchanging emails and talking on the phone for over a month! We started bringing things in upstairs and I got my first view of the place. It is SO beautiful! The rooms are big and spacious and it feels so warm and inviting. Plus it smells really really good - which you know I really appreciate. :)

I also met Abby and her boyfriend Charlie. Abby has a torn ACL so she hung out up here while Charlie, Lauren, and I unloaded the rest of my things. It only took about 3 trips and I was able to unpack everything last night. My furniture was already here - had rented it a few weeks ago - and now I am just waiting on my air freight box to arrive (probably within a week). But, I have everything I need for now!

Abby and Charlie had to go to an engagement party, so Lauren I tried to decide on some food. We were starving and I was pooped so we decided to order some delicious pitas from this amazing place in Arlington called "The Lost Dog Cafe." -- They delivered and it was amazing. Just what I needed! Lauren bought dinner. She said, "Please it is my pleasure to introduce you to this greatness for the first time and especially on your birthday!"

So we ate, Abby and Charlie returned and we all stayed up and hung out for a while, getting to know each other better. Basically they are all incredible - very warm, active, kind, laid-back peeps.

It felt amazing to get a good night's rest! My bed is incredibly comfortable. The only thing I will have to get used to is the sound of the cars passing on I-395. But, I can pretty much sleep through anything. I got up this morning, grabbed a shower, then headed down to turn in my paperwork to the leasing office. All is going well! I also really enjoyed getting lost for over an hour trying to find the Whole Foods in Clarendon. Bleh. BUT! The good news is that I found it and now have some groceries! I plan to meet up with a friend tonight for dinner - I think we are going to hit up this neat area called Shirlington. Can't wait!

Hope everyone is doing well! I would love to hear from you!


PS - Thank you, Ches, and everyone who came! I loved my birthday/going-away party!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Flag Day (and other important dates!)

hello hello!

So, I wanted to share a little bit of my timeline for the next few weeks. Here are some of my personal plans combined with some of the latest information I've gotten from Washington.

First and foremost, I am heading east this Thursday - Sept 10. I will be driving to Asheville, NC where I will stay the night. I'm excited to see my Emily (Chiara) at Warren Wilson!

My first "meet-and-greet" will be this Sunday. It is hosted by the 146th A-100 class and will be a chance for me to meet all of my classmates! ("A-100" is the name of the 5 week training class I will be taking from Sept. 14 - Oct. 16).

Then, on Monday the work begins! I will head to "Main State" in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood and be "processed." I assume this means that I will be filling out a lot of paperwork, maybe getting a fancy badge or something, and choosing life insurance?? Who knows...!

Tuesday morning will be my first day at the Foreign Service Institute . Here is where I will be spending the next 3-12 months learning about the role of the Department, learning language (don't know yet!), and learning - I guess how to be a diplomat. More on that later...

But, I guess the most important date - the one everyone has been asking me about is Oct. 9. This is "Flag Day." This will be the day when I will finally be able to answer all of your questions - "Where are you going?" "How long will you be in DC?" "What language are you going to learn?" "Can you only go to a place where they speak French?" (--- well, the answer to that one has always been no...) On "Flag Day," I will be given a flag that corresponds with the country I will be spending approximately 2 years. So how will they decide where to send me? Well, within the first couple of weeks of my training I will be given a list of available posts. I will meet with a career counselor who will talk to me about my goals, needs, etc and then I will rank all of the available posts (apprx 100) either high, medium, or low. From what I understand, a good portion of people get a post they ranked high, with a majority of people getting a post ranked high or medium. Rarely are people assigned a post they ranked low.

Once I know where I will be posted (don't forget - Oct. 9!), then I will know how long I will be in DC. Once I know my first post I will know what kind of and how much language training I will need. I will also know what kind of career specific training I will need. (FYI - Even though I am a Public Diplomacy Officer I may not do any "PD" work in my first post. Therefore, I might need training in consular work, etc).

So now you all know everything I do! It's just a waiting game now! I would appreciate any prayers for the drive this week, the new transition, and my health! (I have a little bit of a sore throat to start off my new career :/)

Oh! And in more personal news, I will be living in a condo in Arlington with two other young women. My friend, Lindsay, who is already in DC sent me a link to this cool site. It is a ministry called "Kairos" which is affiliated with The Falls Church. It's a neat way to connect people moving in and out of the DC area. Anyway, it's how I found Lauren and Abby. I'll be so excited to finally get there and meet them!

Alright, I think that's the latest update. BTW - Congrats to Jennie who had a BEAUTIFUL wedding this weekend!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Now for the logistics...

Over the course of the past fourteen months I have had a most intensive introduction to the Foreign Service. Because I have lived (and waited out) this process of becoming an FSO (Foreign Service Officer), I almost can't remember what it was like not to know how the "bidding process" works, or how how to go about studying for a case management exercise. However, I realize that most people aren't familiar with this process, how intense and time-consuming it is, or even what the role of the State Department is!

I thought it might be helpful if I addressed a few of the most common questions I get on a regular basis.

What the heck is a Foreign Service Officer and what do they do?

"Foreign Service Officers, or diplomats, are the front line professionals representing the Department of State at all US Embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions. They can be sent anywhere in the world, at any time, to serve the diplomatic needs of the United States. With representation in over 160 countries, the Department of State offers Foreign Service Officers unparalleled opportunities to serve their country."

- US Department of State Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process, 2009-2010

This basically means that I will be working in a United States Embassy in a foreign country. That country is called the "host country." It will be my job to learn the language, culture, economic and political structure of that country while I am living there. My co-workers will be other Foreign Service Officers (FSOs)who are American citizens, and Foreign Nationals who are people native to that country fulfilling other duties.

Ok, so what does that mean exactly on a day to day basis?

Well, that depends on which "career track" I have chosen.

So how many are there and which one did you choose?

There are five career tracks you can choose in the Foreign Service.
1. Consular
2. Economic
3. Political
4. Management
5. Public Diplomacy

I chose the Public Diplomacy track. It's important to note that I chose this track last June (2008) when I first registered for the exam. Once you choose your track it is very difficult to change it.

Also, note that no matter which career track you have chosen most officers will spend their first 2-3 years doing consular work. This includes visa/immigration work.

So, what is a Public Diplomacy Officer?

"As a Public Diplomacy Officer, I will broaden understanding of American values and policies. I will explain the breadth of American foreign policies to ensure that our positions are understood and misrepresentations are corrected, in addition to:

-Communicating with and through a variety of media to promote U.S. interests overseas
-Managing cultural and information programs
-Explaining to foreign audiences how American history, values and traditions shape our foreign policy
-Coordinating various exchange programs to strengthen relationships that improve foreign insight into American society"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Official Offer of Appointment for the Junior Officer Training Class

Bueno. After thirteen months and sixteen days of jumping through hoops, not-so-patiently waiting for months on end, filling out (1) 44 page application form, (1) 77 page security clearance form, taking about fourteen leaps of faith, memorizing all of the presidents, learning the difference between diffuse and defuse, overcoming bronchitis and pneumonia, flying stand-by round-trip from St. Louis to Washington-Reagan, spending one very long night in bed with a catfish (aka my brother samuel),(1) excruciating 10 hour day at Annex 44, mutilating my feet in my diplomat stilettos, having five vats of blood drawn on three separate occasions, having multiple meltdowns and praying fervently every step of the way - it is complete.

I am in.

I have overcome the odds - I am now one of about 2% of people who begin this process who can call themselves Foreign Service Officers for the Department of State, United States of America...

and it feels good.