Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time Without Now

It struck me today that we will have a new president before I complete my Arabic training. Of course, I have a calendar, I listen to the news, I put in for my absentee ballot -- it's not as if I'm unaware of the outside world or that these two things were going to overlap. But it's strange that it does feel very much apart from my current day-to-day reality. Outside we're apparently experiencing political and financial mayhem, but inside my classroom I haven't even changed my seat in over 30 weeks. Time has ceased to have a 'Now'-- there's only 'Back Then' and 'After This', and no real sense of when we broke from the one or when we'll be reaching the other. We've achieved a sort of equilibratory stasis. Though I'm certain the minute that we realize we have 13 days instead of 13 weeks left, reality will come crashing back down in a most intrusive way. It dawned on us a month or so ago that we were losing track of the time, so we've begun keeping a tally of the weeks on the classroom wall.

I'm often asked for my impression of Arabic training, so here it is: it's long. Not bad, but definitely long.

The upshot of all of this 'longness' is that I am longing to be at work. In a bid to be even mildly productive, I spend all my time outside class furiously reading. Other people dream of homeleave spent lounging on a beach; I'm looking for a place to go and dig trenches. Maybe I could get a job at McDonald's for the month. I picture arriving at post and racing through projects one after the other... Well, it's a nice thought at the moment, anyway. A thought flecked with the knowledge that much sooner than I would like I might not be able to work. Sometimes I wonder if I've made the right choices. That kind of fear is not cold and steely: it is pungent and choking and little tolerant of the notion of stasis. Luckily I can usually put it off.

Meanwhile, after seven months I'm beginning to think that the relationship I have with my classmate is probably the closest thing I'll ever have to a marriage. We're scheduled to have our post-Arabic training together as well. No one's yet suggested that we begin wearing matching outfits, but I can sense it's coming.


Teresa said...

Do you think you could get matching "I'm with Stupid" t-shirts in Arabic?

Blaine said...

Wow! You're doing exactly what I want to do, although I don't know which of the career paths you chose. I don't know if you remember me, I was Karyn and Ellen's friend (well.. one of them at the very least) in Guam. You helped me read a Shin Chan book, and told me the sound that hair makes when you rub it... something like "Sudu sudu."

Anyway, I was wondering if you could give me some advice on getting in, and tell me about the exams. I've got to say, I'm pretty intimidated. Did you read everything on the reading list? Do you have a degree in political science? I'm working on the reading list... my degree is in business.

I'd like to go into either the political path or the diplomacy path, but haven't made up my mind yet.

Please send me an e-mail! My ambition for this type of career is overwhelming!

Blaine said...

so is my intimidation... by the way.

Anonymous said...

Dear Katie,

I stumbled across your blog on the Internet, and it has been enormously helpful to me as I contemplate a career as an FSO. Your eloquent entries depicting both the pros and cons of Foreign Service life have enabled me to make a decision with my eyes (more) open about what I'm getting into. I'm sure that your main purpose in writing this blog is not to inform random people about potential future careers; however, I really appreciate being able to use it for that!


Katie said...

I'm glad that it was helpful; and actually, what you are describing was my original purpose in keeping a blog. In case it's in any way unclear, I recommend the Foreign Service and am very glad to be a part of it. Good luck to you!