Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Week in Review

One week down, and my overall feeling is a good one. As the jetlag has worn off and I've reached a state of greater equilibrium, things are much easier to take in and digest. Still, I am grateful for the current long weekend.

Much of what we learn the first week pertains to broad matters of protocol, presented in what the instructors have termed "the firehose method" -- blasting us with as much information as possible, presumably with the notion that something is bound to stick. Generally speaking, this has resulted in long lectures, often with little content directly applicable to one's own situation. These can be a struggle to sit through. However, given the great number of us in the orientation and the even greater variety of programs, departments, agencies, positions, and peoples involved in the Foreign Service, I can't honestly come up with a better orientation method. A lot of what we're hearing seems only tangentially important now, but might be crucial a post or two down the road.

Thus, I find myself trying to take things in wholesale, much as a snake would go about swallowing an elephant. Hopefully when the time comes I'll be able to spit up the bones of something relevant.

Clothing has been more of a problem than I anticipated. Even though I packed out early enough that my UAB is already in D.C., actual delivery is only an option from 8am-5pm. Thus I'm having to wait until next Friday (when instructors have indicated we can leave class if necessary) to receive my stuff. Beside the fact that this leaves my patronizingly bland apartment in its sad, pale state for another week, it also means I have to recycle a lot of clothing.

This wouldn't normally bother me. Those of you who know me know that I'm not adverse to wearing the same pair of shorts / shoes / trousers / underwear etc. all year round (with appropriate washing, of course). The problem is that much of the clothing which seemed very smart and professional in the Ross and Macy's in Hawaii assumes a whole new persona in Washington, D.C. Suddenly I feel as if Stevie Nicks could comfortably pull pieces from my closet to prepare for her next tour. I have inadvertantly arrived ready for a night of clubbing instead of a day of orientation in a town which could only reasonably be termed "fashion-oppressive."

So, if you are coming to D.C., go ahead and stock up on the suit sets. Whatever it is you're wearing, make sure it looks good with a jacket. Cut off those cute little embellishments which seemed so trendy at the time of purchase. Go for structure and a tailored fit over loose and flowy. And remember that, if you're here in the summer, you're going to sweat. You're going to sweat all over that crisp, clean collared shirt and that expensive jacket. Don't expect to comfortably wear the same item in a week more than twice, max. And since it will take at least 2 weeks to receive your UAB, that should give you a pretty good idea of how many suits you're going to need.

Finally, some items you should bring to the first week of orientation:

  • Your passport. Other forms of government id (such as a drivers license) require backup identification, such as a social security card. A passport will be faster and easier to deal with.

  • Copies of your travel orders. This first week I've already needed to turn over one copy; I've been told others might be necessary.

  • Banking information. Specifically, the routing number for the bank account you want the per diem and travel advance to be sent to. I brought this the first day "just in case" and was lucky to have had it on me.

  • If you are like me and filled out all of your forms ahead of time, you might want to bring a book or magazine. Some sessions are nothing but instructions for those people (a lot of people) who did not feel comfortable completing the forms on their own.

This weekend I'll explain the bid list.

Happy (early) Fourth of July.

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