I’ve done quite a bit of research over the last month. I’ve finished the book Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America, by Shawn Dorman. It was very thorough and thoroughly boring. I guess it was good getting a feel for the ways of the State Department overseas but most of the stories had a dated feel (and there where no perspectives from the Construction Engineer specialist position…booo!) I’ve heard version three just came out. Hopefully there are more post 9/11 stories in there.
I also came across a few blogs:
http://www.aafsw.org/overseas/blogs.htm (clearing house for many blogs)
http://deadmenworking.blogspot.com/2011/05/this-memorial-day-remember-diplomats.html#links (interesting perspective on honoring civil service as well as the military)
http://foreignservicespecialist.blogspot.com/ (good, really only one I’ve found, perspective on the specialist position)
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=582047 (interesting view on tenure and politics inside the compound)
I’ve also started reading Realities of Foreign Service Life Vol 1 by Patricia Linderman and Melissa Brayer-Hess. I’m only about half way through and so far it reads like a disgruntled house-wife blog. Is it really a shock to FSOs and their families that they can’t find their favorite foods and shopping is a lot different outside our comfortable bubble of Middle North America.
Needless to say our Peace Corps experience has prepared us for dealing with the unexpected and unfamiliar conditions as it relates to food procurement (can anyone say Dalo/Cassava for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!). It just appears much of what we read is flat out whining about how things are different than back home. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of complaining whilst in Fiji but tried not to see it from a better/worse viewpoint, but just different. Unpacking the reasons why and details how it was different is the fun part. It explains a lot about culture and the amazing depth and creativity of the human.
So, I will continue reading and try not to get too bitter about it all. Hopefully there are more constructive descriptions and lessons learned about realities of foreign service life that will help us get better prepared for what is about to come.
Speaking of next steps, I shipped off our medical forms today! Kelly of course got hers done a week a head of me. My doc forgot to ask for a cholesterol test so I had to fast and go back for more blood work late last week. The gauntlet of requirements for medical where much more reasonable compared to Peace Corps. Other than the strange requirement for a chest x-ray, we did much less in this round of governmental medical testing. No dental or eye exams were required, and we didn’t have to provide a bone marrow analysis. That bone bit was just a joke, but I do know a Peace Corps volunteer that had to do this to get in! I often wonder who actually reviews these and what their evaluation is. I picture the red stapler guy from Office Space sitting in a basement reading reports: “Well, I see here that Mr. Jones has a 5% GGT test with a 45bgm callipered wollypop, that seems normal, approved! Next…”
After medical is security clearance which could take up to 90 days.
After all that is done, my conditional offer goes before a final review panel that determines if I’m a good guy. If I keep my nose clean beyond this point I get a formal offer and placed in a queue for the next training class. My ranking depends on test scores and the number of folks on the list. So if it is just me, I’m number 1. Woo hoo! The waiting could last up to 18 months. After that you get to go back to square one and start all over again. I’ve been told that is rare, but who knows at this point.
My guess it I’ll get spotted for training next spring. We’ll see!