Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Concentrate! On Everything! And Tread Lightly.

Collecting my thoughts about this new job and place has been more difficult than I anticipated. Collecting my thoughts in general, in fact, is proving a challenge. Multi-tasking has never been something I particularly enjoyed; if a thing is worth working on, then I feel it's worth my full attention. ACS has a lot of things going on all at once, all of them needing my full attention... all at once. Or at least it seems that way now. When I get to be more of an expert, my hope is that assessing priorities will become more natural. Knowing how to triage seems like the key skill for this branch of consular work. Maybe for any type of service work.

Normally when I want to collect myself I'll seek out some alone time. Unfortunately, there's nowhere quiet or private to go in or around the embassy -- no tucked-away benches to sit on outside, no spare rooms, no little coffee shops within easy there-and-back-again-over-a-lunch-break walking distance. Not that I've found, at any rate. Space is at a premium, so this is understandable. Right now they're doing construction in the office area behind the client windows; today, the staff had a party with cake, also right behind the windows. It takes all my willpower not to turn around and say "Shhhh!" every five minutes. I must look more distressed than I had realized, as the Consular Chief this morning kindly offered me the use of her office should I need it. Part of me cringed. I have to remember to smile more when I'm trying to focus.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping a running list of 'Areas for Potential ACS Improvement'. I haven't really shared this with anyone; at this point, it's more like a hobby. It seems wise to figure out the logic behind current office priorities and systems first before making potentially disruptive observations -- more of that triaging skill I'm hoping to better develop. I don't want to throw off the established feng shui before I fully understand the consequences.

You are never qualified for the job you're going into, only for the job you just left. It's not exactly a comforting thought, but it's a true one. I want to be completely competent -- right now! -- so that I can quit bothering my colleagues, so that I can gain the confidence of the staff, so that I can help those people on the other side of the glass... but of course it takes time.

To give myself something else to fuss about, I bought a geranium:

We'll see if it fares better than the ones in Osaka.


Geraldine said...

This AM Robin asked if I had heard from you. I told her you were likely looking for a quiet place to process everything and had no energy for email or anything such. Looks like I was right! You'll get it all sorted and fit into your mental spaces soon, I'm sure! 8^)

I'm not holding my breath for this geranium, but what an awesome planter!


Katie said...

See, you know me too well.

I admit to the container being a major factor in my decision to buy the plant. It's an old soy oil can. I got all muddy carrying it back to the apartment, but 'muddy' is a word I can say in both Japanese AND Arabic, so even that was sort of satisfying.

Shaila said...

It's always a bit overwhelming at first, especially in a language we're still learning - but it will get less and less so. I can't wait to see you and start exploring. The Ambassador's OMS here served in Amman and LOVES it. You're going to have a great time.

Teresa said...

I agree. It's a fabulous container!
And don't forget to tell yourself, "In 6 weeks, this won't be quite so overwhelming. In 3 months, it won't seem so hard. In 2 years it'll be a piece of cake."
Then you'll move.

Katie said...

I'm not sure that I'm overwhelmed so much as just in need of a bit of processing time, as Mom observed. I'm taking steps to achieve this. No worries.

(Ha, though I'm changing jobs in a year, so I'm trying to hurry the whole settling-in equation up a bit!)

hal said...

"Hoping to pick up some Arabic music at the souk... (!يا سلام)"

Here's a pair of recommendations I can make, and they've even backgrounders for your current assignment:

* Charbel Rouhana, Salamat
* Naseer Shamma, Ishraq

Rouhana was used as the background music for King Abdullah's website back in 2001, and Shamma for Queen Rania's site at the same time. They both play the oud, which is the instrument the Western lute descended from.

Salamat I was able to get via the Net and mail order from Beirut. Ishraq appears to have been released by a small label based in Italy (of all places) -- but clearly someone in web development had a source.

Katie said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I'll look for them while I'm out tomorrow...

Morgan said...

Katie, lovely blog, among the top few I have ever read actually.

I have read through most of it chronologically and wanted to know if you would still follow the consular track if you could do it over again?

Katie said...

All officers are directed to do at least a year of consular work within their first two tours. I'm actually on a public diplomacy track. Sort of.