Monday, December 14, 2009

Back on U.S. Soil

So, we lost every game. Sweden won the world championship and beat us 28 - 1. Ouch. But I still had a great time over there, and the ladies of Team USA were the main reason. I think this photo sums it up nicely.

USA goalie love. :)

Still in adjudications. I am thinking of moving and starting over somewhere new while I wait for the foreign service stuff to fall into place. Anywhere is better than here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Red, White, (Black) and Blue

We're three games into our tournament in Sweden. We aren't doing that well. And by not doing that well, I mean we have lost by a large margin each game. In addition, I've injured my knees, possibly fractured my thumb, and gotten covered in bruises. I'm still having a good time. I'm exhausted, but I'm having a good time here in Sweden.

I wanted to write something more interesting or exciting, but truthfully my days are taken up by eating, sleeping, training, and playing floorball. Exciting!

Here's a lovely picture of my arm. Very fun!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Greetings from Nyköping!

I'm in Sweden and yesterday was our first day of training. Two practices. Today, we are running errands and getting ready for our first practice game against the local team, Onyx. Should be interesting.

My muscles are screaming and I'm covered in bruises, but I'm already having a great time. Pictures to follow once I get to Västerås, where I will have internet in my hotel room. :)

Go Team USA!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life. Is. Good.

The last few days have been really, really fun. I have been playing hockey, meeting new people, spending time with great friends, and generally enjoying life. This is the perfect send-off.

I may not be playing Shpoople, but I am leaving in 3 days to go to Sweden. The only way life could get any better right now would be if I got my security clearance! Fingers crossed. :D

Thursday, November 19, 2009

True Callings

There are two things I've been passionate about for a very long time: ice hockey and travel. We obviously know where my love of travel has gotten me (and I am traveling for the FOURTH time this year; this time to Sweden), but where does my other passion fit in?

I started playing hockey when I was 8, and it was the one thing I never gave up on. In fact, the draw to play was so strong that even after my equipment was stolen five years ago, I went out and bought all brand new gear. I dropped $2,300 over the last few weeks buying new goalie stuff, and it made me feel so good to know that I get to play again. I'm not part of a league or anything (yet). But, still, when I put on that mask today, it was like I had been transported.

It sounds silly to say, but my heart feels so full right now! I have missed this sport so much. It's like regaining part of my identity.

This mask, while designed for ice hockey, will be coming with me to Sweden.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

Okay, so not really. But I am flying to Stockholm in 11 days to play for the US national floorball team. It's a pretty cool thing to say you played on a national team--even if it's for a sport 99% of the population have no idea exists.

Be sure to check us out and root for us! It's the World Floorball Championship, after all. If any of you folks out there in cyberworld know anyone who works at the US Embassy in Stockholm, please extend an invitation to them from this future diplomat!

Where: Vasteras, Sweden
When: December 5 - 12

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moving Forward

I've spent the last few days in Burlington, Vermont, visiting friends and keeping busy. It was a nice getaway that bordered on necessity in an attempt to keep my brain from dwelling on my (former) relationship. However, I've decided to let myself feel sad for a little while. It's a natural part of healing, but I've been trying my best to avoid it. I don't think anyone likes to feel sad. Anger is so much easier. Avoidance is easier--in the short term, at least. You can actually function when you don't feel as though getting through the night is an impossible task or waking up is a burden. Sadness saps your energy and drive. Who wants to willingly submit to that? I didn't, but it's necessary. I have to grieve the loss of a relationship that lasted three and a half years, my closest confidante, the future that had been talked about ad infinitum, and a very large part of the identity I had assumed as one half of our pairing.

There is nothing wrong with feeling sad. But that doesn't give me license to sulk for the foreseeable future, to give up on my diet, act financially irresponsibly, or unnecessarily burden my friends with my rantings. I must take steps to live my life normally, if not a little better than before. Getting stuck in a rut right now is not an option. My sadness is real, even palpable at times, and that's okay as long as I don't let it consume or define me.

For the first time I am willing to admit what I've known since our first long-distance trial: this was never going to work, but I allowed it to pathetically limp along for three years on false hope. I will get over it, of that I'm sure. Even if tears will sometimes bubble up over the next however many days, weeks, or months, I am a strong person and I will be fine without him. Better, even. My brain and the rest of my emotions simply need a little bit of time to sync up.

I can say that I am genuinely glad this split is happening now instead of when I am in A-100 or heading to post. My life is now my own, and I only need to focus on my needs and wants. If I want to go to Africa, I can. I don't have to worry about plane fare, organizing visits, the time difference and trying to make it work over Skype, all while balancing my new, busy life in a strange country. There is something very freeing about that.

I'm still young and I have so much more to experience. One bad relationship will certainly not prevent me from doing just that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

January A-100

I found out today that the invitations have started going out for the January A-100 class, and I'm still waiting on my security clearance. Rumor has it that offers for February will be going out as soon as January is filled. If that is the case, I will definitely be out for that class's consideration as well. I'll be lucky to get in for March or May at this point.

I'm a bit unsure of my next step if I either don't get my clearance or am not put on the register until December or later. I can't go back to waiting tables if I have to be there for 3 or more months if I plan on retaining my sanity.

Any suggestions?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just a Little Premature

I knew when I chose to go into the Foreign Service that my romantic relationship would be affected. I wondered if it would survive, if it stood a chance, if my experience with distance would be enough to carry me through at least the first tour. I knew going in that the time would come when I'd have to make a choice.

What I didn't realize, however, is how early on this decision would affect me. I am still in the purgatory that is adjudications and yet I am watching this connection dissolve before my very eyes. It's a painful process.

I know that life as a career diplomat is what I want, without hesitation, but is this much carnage necessary so early on?

At times like these, a quiet pause is the best answer I can muster.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Worldwide Clearance

I have my Class I from MED. Still waiting for security. I hope to be on the register before February starts, but who knows!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Still in adjudications (I found out I've been in this stage since 10/2/09). Still haven't had MED look at my paperwork. Still out in the middle of nowhere. Still asking people, "And what would you like as your side item?"

At last check, the consular register was at 61. Goodbye January and February. Hello March.

I suppose that's the nature of the FS beast. Hurry up and wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cabin Fever

...of sorts.

I would love to hop on a plane tomorrow and go far, far away from the day-to-day that is my life. I have 39 days until I head to Sweden, but it can't come fast enough. I think I am coming to the end of my days as a waitress.

Hopefully I'll have some good news this week regarding my clearance. Who knows. What I am pretty sure of, however, is that January is out of the running. February is currently the most likely placing because of the length of the CON register at present (creeping up into the high 30s, low 40s). I can always hope that 20 people are on the DNC list, but I'm trying to be realistic.

Anyone have an extra plane ticket going...anywhere?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I inquired today about my status regarding my security clearance. I found out that I am in adjudications. I wish I knew what this really meant, other than it goes to a panel who decides whether or not to give me a Top Secret clearance.

Supposedly the process takes about a week, though it varies from person to person. Considering today is 10/13 and my TCD is 10/20, I may be one of the 1-week people. Let us hope.

One of the A-100 board's frequent contributors gave me some good advice: if your Med hasn't come through by the time you get your TS, try to have it expedited. Since Med is over a month behind schedule, I will do just that (assuming I get my clearance, of course).

My patience is wearing thin. I realize others have gone through much longer waits than I, but I don't think those people had to go back to waiting tables for a national chain in the morning.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Dream Bid List

As November creeps closer, meaning A-100 offers for January will start going out around that time, I can't help but get ahead of myself and start thinking about possible future posts. So, for those of you who care, here are my top 10 picks that I'm hoping will be on my first bid list (bound to change, I'm sure):

1. La Paz, Bolivia (20% hardship)

2. Kyiv, Ukraine (20% hardship)

3. Manila, Philippines (20% hardship)

4. Chisinau, Moldova (20% hardship)

5. Sofia, Bulgaria (20% hardship)

6. Almaty, Kazakhstan (25% hardship)

7. Mumbai, India (20% hardship)

8. Minsk, Belarus (25% hardship)

9. St. Petersburg, Russia (20% hardship)

10. Praia, Cape Verde Islands (25% hardship)

I made a table of hardships posts that are 20% and above; I ignored danger ratings. I like the idea of serving in a hardship post, and there are many perks to doing so. The pay differential; ability to pay back federal student loans at posts that are 20% and above; career boosting abilities; contributing to the unofficial "share the load" policy; better picks on the next post; and others. I'm certainly open to many other options than these, but if I had my pick, these would be at the top of the list. Obviously there are some really amazing places I'd love to go (Wellington, Chennai, Moscow, Nassau, London, etc.) but I have little chance of getting and/or their hardship differential is less than 20%, my personal cut off for the dream list.

Here's the list, in case anyone is interested!

Country City Hardship %

35% Posts

Afghanistan Kabul 35%
Equatorial Guinea Malabo 35%
Iraq Baghdad 35%
Timor-Leste Dili 35%

30% Posts

Bangladesh Dhaka 30%
Burma Rangoon 30%
Central African Republic Bangui 30%
Chad N'Djamena 30%
China Shenyang 30%
China Wuhan 30%
Cuba Havana 30%
Djibouti Djibouti City 30%
Eritrea Asmara 30%
Georgia Tbilisi 30%
Ghana Accra 30%
Guinea Conakry 30%
Laos Vientiene 30%
Liberia Monrovia 30%
Pakistan Karachi 30%
Pakistan Peshawar 30%
Papua New Guinea Port Moresby 30%
Russia Vladivostok 30%
Sierra Leone Freetown 30%
Uzbekistan Tashkent 30%
Zimbabwe Harare 30%

25% Posts

Angola Luanda 25%
Armenia Yerevan 25%
Azerbaijan Baku 25%
Belarus Minsk 25%
Burundi Bujumbura 25%
Cambodia Phnom Penh 25%
Cameroon Bujumbura 25%
Cape Verde Praia 25%
China Chengdu 25%
China Guangzhou 25%
Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa 25%
Ethiopia Addis Ababa 25%
Guinea-Bissau Bissau 25%
Guyana Georgetown 25%
Haiti Port-au-Prince 25%
India Hyderabad 25%
India Kolkata 25%
Indonesia Jakarta 25%
Indonesia Surabaya 25%
Kazakhstan Almaty 25%
Kenya Nairobi 25%
Kyrgyzstan Bishkek 25%
Lebanon Beirut 25%
Madagascar Antananarivo 25%
Malawi Lilongwe 25%
Mali Bamako 25%
Mauritania Nouakchott 25%
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar 25%
Mozambique Maputo 25%
Nepal Timbuktu 25%
Niger Niamey 25%
Nigeria Abuja 25%
Nigeria Lagos 25%
Pakistan Lahore 25%
Republic of the Congo Brazzaville 25%
Russia Yekaterinburg 25%
Rwanda Kigali 25%
Sudan Khartoum 25%
Surniame Paramaribo 25%
Syria Damascus 25%
Tajikistan Dushanbe 25%
Tanzania Dar es Saalam 25%
Togo Lome 25%
Uganda Kampala 25%
Vietnam Hanoi 25%
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City 25%

20% Posts

Albania Tirana 20%
Algeria Algiers 20%
Benin Cotonou 20%
Bolivia La Paz 20%
Bosnia-Herzegovina Sarajevo 20%
Bulgaria Sofia 20%
Burkina Faso Ougadougou 20%
Cote D'Ivoire Abidjan 20%
Fiji Suva 20%
Gabon Libreville 20%
Honduras Tegucigalpa 20%
India Mumbai 20%
Kosovo Pristina 20%
Lesotho Maseru 20%
Libya Tripoli 20%
Moldova Chisinau 20%
Pakistan Islamabad 20%
Philippines Manila 20%
Russia St. Petersburg 20%
Saudi Arabia Jeddah 20%
Saudi Arabia Riyadh 20%
Saudi Arabia Dhahran 20%
Somalia Mogadishu 20%
Sri Lanka Colombo 20%
The Gambia Banjul 20%
Turkmenistan Ashgabat 20%
Ukraine Kyiv 20%
Venezuela Caracas 20%
Yemen Sana'a 20%
Zambia Lusaka 20%

So, that's what I've been doing with my spare time. I know what worldwide availability means, but that doesn't mean I can't wish and hope.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Target Completion Date

October 20, 2009. Let's hope that my TS investigation stays on target! My case coordinator has been very helpful, as have the rest of my investigators. I am hoping that being in the consular cone is helping to speed up my clearance. I will find out in approximately one month!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Shoulders are Unburdened

I had my security investigation meeting on the 10th, and I have to say that I am feeling much better after having met with my investigator. He was very professional, friendly, and made me feel immediately at ease. We went through the standard questions (160 or so, though I was not asked all of them) and then the two follow-up personal questions.

So far, six investigators have been involved in my case (a lot!), but they are all getting things done in a timely manner. I definitely appreciate that. My tax problems have been cleared up, and I was issued a Certificate of Compliance, meaning that I am completely up-to-date as of right now with my taxes, and nothing is outstanding or owed on my account. Fantastic! I was able to get this to my investigation coordinator within two hours of his request this morning. I am feeling much more confident in my ability to claim a TS clearance. I hope I am not proved wrong!

Now, I'm just waiting to hear back (I'm sure it will be a few months). I am keeping my fingers crossed for an invite to the 150th A-100 in January.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Moving Right Along

My face-to-face meeting with my security investigator takes place tomorrow afternoon. I'm a bit nervous, but I'm sure it will go okay.

Here's to (hopeful) articulation!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pandora's Box

My security investigation has been opened and two of my contacts have been, well, contacted. And I have SO much to accomplish before I meet with my security investigator. (Insert sigh here.)

A year ago I wouldn't have predicted myself being where I am today; maybe in a few years, sure, but not here, not now. And certainly I wouldn't have predicted this back in 2002. Which is a shame. As a decidedly naive 20-something, I neglected to take care of my taxes the way they should have been. Federal? Filed. State? Not so much. After a call to the DoR, I realized that I was missing SEVEN years of state taxes. This isn't to say that I OWE seven years of state taxes; I merely neglected to file them. In reality, they owe me a refund for each year I missed, but I won't be receiving those refunds now, and the absenteeism of paperwork is making me look rather foolish and irresponsible. I can only hope that my status of not owing taxes will be a large mitigating factor in having security and suitability panels vote in my favor.

Otherwise, dear readers, I am officially up the metaphorical river without a paddle. At least until next year.

Consider this my lesson learned.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some Good News

I took and passed the Oral Assessment on Monday, 8/3, at Annex 1 with a score of 5.4. I am beyond thrilled. The entire thing doesn't quite feel real to me. I passed the GE and the SI, but failed the CM. I pretty much figured that's how it would go.

Now it's playing the waiting game, hoping my security clearance goes quickly. I'm off to the doctor on Friday for my medical tests. Fingers crossed! Right now it's time for a nap and some enjoyment of some serious downtime.

Friday, July 10, 2009

From Annex 44 to Annex 1

I found out a couple of weeks ago that my testing venue was changed from Annex 44 to Annex 1. I won't let it get to me too much, though I have to say I'm disappointed about having to eat Subway for lunch and being kept inside all day. I would have loved to have walked the National Mall on my breaks. Oh well; it's more about studying to do well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Something to look forward to

I scheduled my OA this morning; I will be testing at Annex 44 on August 3 at 7 a.m. Now begins the studying phase and tackling the beast that is the SF-86.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Update From Trichy

I'm currently writing this from a room in Trichy (Tiruchirapalli), India. I'm here for a friend's sister's wedding on the 3rd. My trip here and to Chennai (capital of the Tamil Nadu state) has been really nice. I got a few salwar kameezes custom-made, as well as two saris (or sarees, depending on where you're from). The country is beautiful, but perhaps not quite in the traditional way Americans think. There are many ramshackle buildings with thatched roofs made from the fronds of palm trees, and poured cement houses that are showing their age with water stains and chipped facades. The streets are often cracked and filled with potholes (when paved), lined with garbage through which the cows, goats, dogs, and pigs pick. But still, it is colorful, warm, inviting, and incredibly hospitable. I have loved every moment here. I can only hope that once/if I make it through the Foreign Service process that I might be posted in Chennai to serve my three years.

Speaking of the Foreign Service, I am very happy to announce that on May 26, as I drove to Logan Airport, I found out that I passed the QEP. This thrilled me to no end, and was the perfect way to start a vacation. I really am very surprised at having passed because on paper I am a rather underwhelming candidate. However, I think that my customer service background coupled with some strong, well-written personal narratives gave BEX enough confidence in me to invite me to the Oral Assessment. Perhaps I might not have made it before the hiring boom under the Obama administration, but that doesn't matter to me. The fact is, I have been given the chance to showcase my abilities and try to gain a spot on the Consular register (and thereby a position in the Foreign Service, as everyone is being called off the Consular and Management registers these days).

I'm very happy and thankful for this opportunity, and I refuse to squander it. In just a few weeks I will pick a date that suits me, and I will prepare for a day in Washington.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Deeping my cultural awareness

I'm going to India in six weeks. How exciting! :D

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Diplomat-in-Residence Session

This past weekend (4/4) I attended a very informative session about the Oral Assessment with Ambassador Bill Eaton, who is the Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Texas here in Austin. Technically you're not supposed to attend until you've passed the QEP and are scheduled to attend the OA, but I let him know that I was still waiting to hear back on my QEP results; he let me attend. I am thankful for this because I'm moving back to Massachusetts in a few weeks' time.

We watched a video of what to expect during the oral assessment (structured interview and group exercise, but nothing on case management--then again, what could you really watch on video about that part?), and it was really nice to see what we're potentially up against. I've been doing a lot of reading on the Yahoo boards re: what to expect at the OA, but seeing it on the video clarified the smaller things in my mind.

Also, I really have to speak to the great personality of Ambassador Eaton. He was incredibly friendly, articulate, and personable. He answered all of our questions to the best of his ability, and he welcomed us to stay after the presentation and ask questions (which I did). Even if you don't get to attend a session, you should try to get in contact with your local DIR and see if you might pick his or her brain. Getting first-hand advice, knowledge, and experiences from a current FSO is invaluable.

Time seems to be passing quickly; we're nearly a third through the month of April already. Before I know it, I'll be receiving that all-important letter telling me whether or not I'm advancing. I'm choosing to prepare for the OA regardless.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nothing more to be done!

I received my score breakdown from State a week or so ago, and I was surprised at just how close to the passing level I was. Here are the numbers:

Job Knowledge: 56.47
Biographical: 41.13 (an abysmal score!)
English Expression: 61.16

Total Score: 158.76

Essay: 10 (yay!)

I was really hoping to do better on the test since I don't have much working for me when it comes to the QEP. The bio section was awful; I have my theories as to why I didn't do so well, and it has nothing to do with being inconsistent. These scores and my PNQ's must now get me to the oral assessment, and as badly as I want it, I'm unfortunately expecting a rejection. I am going up against people with all sorts of impressive backgrounds (lawyers, Ph.Ds, Peace Corps volunteers, etc.), and I don't even have a bachelor's degree. I'm unemployed, had barely any corporate experience, and none in management. I am desperately hoping that they see something in my essays that make them want to take a chance on me, but I'm not expecting it.

We're supposed to hear back in mid- to late-June, but I'm hoping it will be sooner (it was only three weeks instead of the 8-10 they originally said for the WE results). Time will tell, and until then I'm going to be a nervous wreck.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Step Two

I finished writing my PNQs for the QEP portion of the evaluation. The only thing I'm waiting on now is hearing back from two of my potential verifiers. I need their phone numbers, but haven't talked to them in years. Oh, the wonders of Facebook! I sent emails, and now I'm just waiting...waiting...waiting... It's due on March 24, so I'm hoping they get back to me soon. I feel confident in my essays, and I'm hoping that they give me a chance. My resume is probably one of the most underwhelming in their applicant pool, so these five short essays count for a lot. Fingers crossed, gang.

I'm also waiting on my score breakdown for the FSWE, which should be coming soon. People who faxed their request the day they received their pass/fail results got their score reports today. When I get mine, I'll be sure to update.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The results came a day early. I opened my email this morning to 70+ emails from the Yahoo board, half of them saying things like, "Results are in!" or "I passed!" Needless to say I went right to the FSOT letter retrieval site on ACT's website and logged in. I clicked the link to download my results letter.

"Dear FSO Hopeful,

"Congratulations! ..."

I didn't need to read anymore right then. I screamed, upset my dogs, and then called my mom. Step 1 in my quest of becoming a U.S. Diplomat has been successfully completed. Next up, the QEP!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The butterflies are pterodactyls

On the Yahoo FSWE board (, two people have said that they checked with ACT to see when the February cohort would be notified of their scores, or at least their pass/fail status, and were informed that the results would be available this Wednesday (3/4). I am anxiously waiting to find out whether or not this is true. I've been a ball of nerves for days now, which is ridiculous. I want to know, but I'm terrified of the results.

Just under three days until I (potentially) find out. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Patience is a virtue--or so I am told

I successfully completed Step One in my quest for joining the Foreign Service: I took the written exam. I sat down on 2/12 for approximately three hours of testing and came out relatively unscathed. I won't even bother speculating on how I felt I did on the exam; at this point there is nothing I can do to change the outcome. The hard part now is waiting for the results.

Let the obsessive e-mail checking and nail biting commence.