Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm In!!

Things happened very quickly after more than a year of progress being measured in geologic-time. I was placed on the Management Register on January 18th and became number 12 of 54 candidates waiting for an invitation to begin work. I'd spoken to Pat (the controller of the Register) and Don (somebody who answered her phone one day) and had that information confirmed. I was also told that it was probable, but not guaranteed, that I would be invited to join the class beginning on April 30th. That suited me just fine. It would give me a couple of months to find a place to live and I could do a bit of traveling in the meantime. High on my list of plans were trips to NYC, Hawaii and Portland, OR. Joining the April 30th intake would also give me almost fifteen weeks in the gym and I could use the work!! By far and away, however, the most important aspect of being assured of a spot in the April 30th group was that I could stop sitting at my computer hitting the Get Mail button over and over, waiting impatiently for any word from the State Department. There was nothing left for me to do. After testing and interviewing and filling in forms and working through clearance processes, all that was left for me to do was wait.

It was relaxing and I felt some of the stress of the process melt away now that the ball was firmly in the State Department's court. I made a list of books I wanted to read and hit the local library. I began to put together a "to-do" list to prepare for an eventual move to Washington DC. I solved the New York Times crossword with a pen. Then, five days after I'd been put on the Register, I received an email inviting me to join the March 5th class! Enough people, who were on the Register ahead of me, opted to defer their invitations that Pat worked the list all the way down to my name.

I've accepted that invitation and will become a member of the 133rd A100 Foreign Service Officer Class. The classes are called "A100" classes after the room in which they were originally held. The group I'll become part of will be one of the smaller classes, having only eight representatives from each of the five career tracks.

Oh, and you can just rachet the stress level right back up, if you please. Now I had less than five weeks to get ready, find and rent a place to live, move my stuff out of Illinois, finalize my hiring details (salary determination), arrange to see my sons and get a haircut. I had seen a lot of advice on various living arrangements and mulled over my options. I could find a 'corporate' apartment which would be very expensive, but extremely convenient. They are close to the training center in Arlington, VA, are furnished and function much like hotels in that you don't need to sign a long term lease. A second option would be to rent an unfurnished apartment and then either rent furniture or move some of my own into it. This is a much less expensive option, but requires a lease. The problem with signing a lease is that I'll be in Washington for an indeterminate length of time. Orientation will last seven weeks. During that time I'll receive my first overseas appointment and that will determine the amount of training I'll need before departure. Typically, there will be from three to nine months of additional training required after Orientation. So, I'll be in Washington anywhere from five months to almost a year. Signing a lease, therefore, becomes a bit tricky. There are also private residences and properties available to rent and each is unique and so are the terms of rental.

I know nothing at all about the Washington DC area. Our training will take place in Arlington and it appears as though Foreign Service personnel live throughout the entire greater metropolitan area. People live in DC and Arlington and Ballston and Falls Church. There are pros and cons for each and in the end I decided to just go with the most convenient option to start. I've rented a furnished one-bedroom apartment in Arlington that is about a twenty minute walk to the training center. My plan is to settle into it with a minimum of fuss and then get focussed on the training and orientation without any outside distractions. After I learn where I'll be going I'll have a much better idea of how long I'll be in training, I'll know the area much better and will begin to look around for a less expensive place to sleep. The building has a secure garage so I've decided to take the Mustang down and leave the Volvo with my folks. I got a new suit and I've shined my shoes. All I need now is to get that haircut and I'm set.

My paperwork should arrive this week from the State Department. There are, apparently, a couple of forms I'll have to fill out and send in. So, until then, see you in Washington!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Waiting Game

When last we visited, I had passed the Oral Assessment and was waiting for my Medical, Security and Suitability clearances so I could be put on the Register and, eventually, be offered a job. That was last October and I'm still at the beach watching the ocean and waiting. However, progress has been made. I received my Class One medical clearance on December 12th and am now medically qualified to serve anywhere in the world. My Security file is in the works and was scheduled for completion yesterday. Several of my references have been contacted and I've been interviewed as well. I spoke to the customer service people in the Security Department and they said my file was being sent off for final 'adjudication'. So it looks as though it might be released to Pat Evans by the end of this week.

Pat is the woman at the State Department who manages the register list and sets up the incoming classes of new hires. I spoke to her on Friday and she told me that the March class has already been invited and the next opportunity for me to join will be the April 30th class. As of right now, I would be number twelve on the Management list and she feels that I should make the April group without any problem as long as I receive my final clearance.

So, that's where I stand at the moment. Just waiting. I did fly out to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve and had a great time. I rented a car and drove out to the Valley of Fire and Hoover Dam, saw a couple of shows, ate in some pretty good restaurants and welcomed in the New Year out in the street with 100,000 total strangers!! I gambled a little and won at poker but lost it at dice. Playing poker was a lot of fun because there is so much poker on tv now that everyone thinks they're pros. I got into a game with a bunch of college guys who had studied the look and the language but forgot to learn how to play. I felt like I was taking their lunch money. Oh well, someone should teach them to beware the bumbling old fellow who seems a bit slow.

January 12th

I've just learned that all of my clearances have been issued. This information has been forwarded to Pat over at the State Department and I'll probably learn sometime next week about my position on the Management list. I passed the Written Exam on April 8, 2006 and the Oral Assessment on October 16, 2006. I received my Class One medical clearance on December 12, 2006 and my Top Secret security clearance on January 11, 2007. From everything I can determine, this seems to be a fairly typical time line. Once I can contact Pat, I'll have a pretty good idea about if and when I can expect to be offered a slot in one of the start-up classes.

In the meantime, I joined a gym and hired a guy to help design a workout program for me. This is beginning to have all the earmarks of a colossal mistake. I was under the misguided impression that working out in a gym would make me stronger and fill me with energy. I find that I need more energy to play online poker until the wee small hours every night. Anyway, after one solid week of 'working out', I am sore beyond belief and too tired to play a hand. The guy who's responsible for this condition swears that it's temporary and that I will improve. Maybe if I pay him more, he'll do the exercises for me!

Hopefully, I'll have something more exciting to write about soon.