Death by Power Point

Every single day I make a “To Do” list. And every single day, on top of the list is “Blog Entry”. And every single evening I come home with no (as in none, nada, zero) brain cells still functioning. Members of the 132nd Specialist Orientation Class, as we are so proudly called, have come to refer to this pervasive phenomena as “Death by Power Point”.    You’d think it wouldn’t be that bad to sit in a desk for eight hours a day, listening to people present topics of varying interest to you. But trust me on this one: It’s. That. Bad.

The Good News is we’re two weeks down, and one to go. And the other Good News is that sometimes we get a break. Like last week when we had two inches (you read it correctly: two inches) of snow and we had a, you guessed it: Snow Day. (But it really wasn’t much of a break. It just meant that when we reconvened, the speakers talked faster to cram it all in.) And the day we had the security briefing and the presenter brought all manner of surveillance equipment, including belt buckle and ink pen cameras, and business cards with bugging devices. And Friday, when we rearranged our schedule to accommodate a guest speaker coming to the Foreign Service Institute. Kidding aside, getting to see and hear Colin Powell was definitely the highlight of our orientation thus far.

But the end is nigh! This Tuesday is the much anticipated Flag Day ceremony where we are all presented with the flags of our new home countries. Fortunately for me, I already know what mine looks like, but I promised to look surprised! Then Friday we have the final swearing in ceremony, signifying the formal end to this section of the process. Whew.

Following the swearing in, I’ll return to the MED building and resume my MED specific training, which includes classes like Weapons of Mass Destruction/Bioterrorism and two days of Parasitology, which I’m sure will prove to be interesting. (I had a short introduction to this topic already. While discussing all manner of disease-causing bugs, I asked the Infectious Disease doc about schistosomiasis, which I had heard is in the water in Lake Tanganyika. He said, and I quote: “Oh don’t worry about that. The hippos will get you before the schisto does.” Good to know.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Randy, having spent a week here in DC soaking up all the spousal orientation stuff he could take in, is frantically preparing for the move, which may end up coming sooner rather than later. His trip here was worthwhile, though, as he arrived as The Reluctant Spouse, slowly transformed into The Semi-Reluctant Spouse, and left officially as The Formally Reluctant Spouse. Progress, I’d say. 🙂

And now I must bid adieu, as sleep deprivation and eight hours of power point do not good bedfellows make, so to speak. Until next time…


Week One. Check

Week One. Check.

I’ve been checked in, sworn in, security briefed, fingerprinted, photographed, badged, and lost, but I’ve survived Week One. And survived it in heels, no less, although all that trying to impress people with professional dress is just about to come to a halt. I think I’ll have to resort to impressing them with jokes this week. 🙂

It was a bit of a weird week because most of the people I was scheduled to meet with were stuck in a snow storm in ATL, of all places. (In Denver, we usually call it Hotlanta.) So I fell through the cracks a little bit, which was fine by me as I spent the week trying to figure out the badge and all the secure entrances, the metro, the endless maze of hallways of just two of the State Department’s many buildings, and trying to shed the Deer in the Headlights persona. I think I’ve got Week One’s tasks under control. It also left a little time to beg IT for access to the intranet and an email, which I did manage to score on Friday, and to badger transportation to track down my UAB (my belongings shipped by air), which supposedly is coming tomorrow. Finally. Who knew it took ten days to ship a couple of boxes from Denver? Well, it was probably one day to ship the boxes and 9 days of paperwork, which is a great segue to my next topic…

The other Week One task was trying to figure out who in the government is in charge of what. And here’s what I found: the government has a lot of layers of people and positions and well, some waste. There, I said it. Whew. It feels good to get it off my chest…

[Now, no smart aleck comments from those of you who already knew that. You know who you are. Just shuddup, already. No dissing my employer.]

And two things before I close:

Kudos to the few people who responded with acknowledgement of the origins of my blog title, Where and Back Again : Steven Earhart, Alison Gentry Jaeger and Jordon Remke. Yes, it’s a little play on words from the alternate title of The Hobbit or There and Back Again. Clever, isn’t it? I thought so, too. It was a rare moment of great minds coming together. (Randy’s and mine.)

And the topic we’ve all been waiting for: THE ACTUAL LOCATION OF GODFORSAKESTAN. It looks like MED does things differently from the rest of the State Department, and I think I will find out where I’m posted sooner rather than later. So let’s have a little contest in the next few days, as I think I will be able to have my very own FLAG DAY CEREMONY and GEO REVEAL PARTY later THIS WEEK!!:

Contest rules:

Guess the location. Post it in a comment. The winner(s) get free lodging when they come to visit. 🙂 Only one entry per person. Everyone should enter; it’s free.


It’s probably someplace you’ve never heard of.

It’s probably on a very large continent that is the home of the largest subtropical desert on earth.

It’s probably not on your current Bucket List of Places to Visit, but you should probably add it. 🙂