Foreign Service

Foreign Service

This is some objectively big news. I have accepted an offer from the U.S. State Department to be a Foreign Service Officer. I’ll be starting training in June.

“What is a Foreign Service Officer (FSO)?” you say. Well, think of it as America’s diplomacy corps. I’ll be working at consulates and embassies around the world (and occasionally at State Department headquarters in Washington D.C.). I’m in the “Consular” job track, which means that I’ll be working on visa issues and American citizen services mostly. I’m not exactly sure all the details, but I’m sure I’ll learn a whole lot more once I start in late June! How much I’ll be able to share, however, is another matter entirely. OpSec (Operations Security) is legit a big deal.

What this means for this blog however, is that I’m going to be moving overseas again in the near future! Since I originally started this as a way to stay in touch and share my experiences abroad, I’m hoping we’ll be resuscitated from the graduate school hiatus (no one really wanted to hear about my classes did you? Real question, if you’re curious I’ll be happy to share).

In the mean time, let me know if there is anything specific about the foreign service application process, foreign service life, &c. that you’re curious about. Security willing, I’ll try my best to shed some light.

2016 – A Year of Taking Care?

I’m not always good at taking care of myself. I think this has become something of an epidemic in our culture, affecting everyone, but particularly young women. We are taught to be outwardly focused, to devote our lives to the care and keeping of others, and in the meantime we let ourselves fall into disarray, held together by the mantra, “oh, I’m okay.”

I know that I have spent years telling myself and everyone around me that I’m “okay.” That I’m “just a little tired,” and that however upset or stressed I seem it’s “no big deal.” These were lies, the magnitude of which I didn’t realize until at some point in the last few years when I noticed that I always seemed to get upset when I had downtime. Rather than relishing unplanned and unstructured relaxation, I panicked, unsure of what “productive” thing I should be doing, awash in the existential angst of feeling like my life was ticking by with nothing to show for it.

But isn’t life in the moments when we have the luxury to do nothing? To indulge our hobbies and passions?

I realized that I needed to take time getting to know myself and to discover what it is that I do love. In the past three years I have: returned to knitting, resume my love affair with the written word, embraced my enjoyment of dog and music videos, and realized that I love going for long walks. Unfortunately, I’ve also taken steps back in all of this progress. Moving in with my partner has made it harder for me to prioritize myself, not because he demands my attention, but because I am finding it hard to overcome my ingrained fear that taking care of myself is in some ways “inconsiderate” of our time together. How ridiculous is that. I’m embarrassed when I write it.

This year then, rather than lofty fitness or work success goals, I want to focus on taking care of myself. I want to discover things that I feel passionate about; I want to learn to recognize what I need before the situation is dire; I want to prioritize myself without feeling guilty.

In 2016, I want unselfishly and unapologetically to focus on me.

Graduate School

Life has changed fundamentally and unrecognizeably since I last wrote.

I am now a master’s candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education. When I graduate in May I will have an Ed.M and an initial teacher’s certification for secondary English. That means that I’m completing my course work concurrently with my student teaching. It’s a whirlwind of a year. I’m teaching 12th grade English in Boston Publich School District. 

My boyfriend and I also moved in together for the first time. We’ve been lving together for almost two months now. That’s an intense change! It’s a huge step in our relationship, and I’m loving it so far. Yes, there are definitely hard parts (and I’ll write more about those later) but the benefits of living with someone you love so far outweigh the challenges, even for a person as opinionated, unyielding, and fussy as I am. 

It’s nice to be back in the United States, although I’ll admit, I came back in May, and I’m already starting to get itchy to leave again! I’m looking forward to my trip back to Dallas for Christmas, but I doubt that that will really quench my thirst for exploration.

In the mean time, I’m exploring Cambridge, the North-east of the United States, and graduate school life in general!

Hold the Congratulations, Please: An Expat Perspective on Family Milestones

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my cousin got engaged. All reports say this is a good thing: he’s been living with his girlfriend, they’ve been together for over a year, she’s supposedly wonderful and will be a great addition to the family. Everyone I talk to is excited, and I know I should be too, but for some reason I wasn’t.

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Thank you!

It’s a classic for a reason. Hand-turkeys with my special education class. Here’s my turkey, because photos of students online is a cardinal taboo.

 

Expat Thanksgiving Survival Tips

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving when you live on the other side of the planet? When you’ve finished your dinner before your loved ones at home have even started cooking it? When most people around you don’t even know the word for “turkey” in their language? (Hint: shichimencho, or 7 faced bird, if you’re in Japan).

With such a family oriented holiday, it’s easy to get swept up in homesickness and forget all the things that we do have to be thankful living abroad. So, here are my tips for getting through Thanksgiving when you’re the only one celebrating it.

1. Start early! This past week has been completely Thanksgiving oriented, with Thanksgiving classes at school and a themed bulletin board. If you’re cooking, you’re going to have to start more than a week early, though. Start planning out the menu and looking for ingredients at least a month ahead because there’s a good chance you’ll have to be ordering some if you want to duplicate your home spread.

2. Spread the word! All of my students have been making hand turkeys and I’ve been talking it up with my friends and coworkers. Celebrating a holiday alone can be really lonely, so it’s important to make sure that people around you know about it, so at the very least they’ll understand why you’re leaving work a few minutes early to go get the turkey in the oven.

3. Get others involved! I like to bake an extra pumpkin pie a day early and bring it in for my coworkers. Most of them have never had traditional American pumpkin pie, and they enjoy trying it and sharing my culture with me. It also starts my holiday early and guarantees that I’ll be getting a lot of “Happy Thanksgivings!” throughout the work day.

4. Find the other expats! This one is pretty predictable, but even if you’re deeply immersed in your own community, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to connect with the other foreigners in your area. Besides, it’s much less work making one dish than ten!

So how am I celebrating? All my other JET Programme friends and I are heading out to a huge traditional Thanksgiving dinner! As a devoted food lover, I can tell you that I’ve been looking forward to this meal for at least a month. I’d promise pictures, but realistically the food will be in my stomach long before I remember to take my camera out!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The beach, after Vongfong

Last weekend, typhoon Vongfong parked itself over Okinawa. The wind howled through the cracks in my windows like a person crying out in pain. Every now and then I’d hear a metallic thud as something left unsecured was flung into something unmovable, like a trashcan into a tree or a car into a building. Water flooded the streets and seeped into my apartment every way it could: the vent in my bathroom, the vent in my air conditioner, the crack in a bathroom window, door jambs and window ledges. Power on the island flickered on and off; I made it through Saturday, but sometime in the night it died, and I spent the next 24 hours eating canned soup and thanking my lucky stars that at least I still had water and gas.

Normally, the first trip to the beach after a typhoon is a bit depressing. The pristine sands are covered in trash and debris thrown up on shore–old washing machines and worn out jeans wrapped around downed branches. A few days ago I took my book and went out to survey the damage. I can only imagine that with the season drawing to an end, the currents have begun to shift, because this time, instead of rubbish, the beach was covered with bleached white coral, pristine shells, and sea urchins. I spread my mat on the sand, and played with the hermit crabs pinching at my toes as the sun set.