Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘152nd’ Category


Posted by quirksalight on June 26, 2011

It’s been one year since I arrive at Seoul, jetlagged, bewildered and armed with a vague notion of what I’m supposed to do. In that year, I’ve made some wonderful friends, weathered political crises, fielded called from friends and family worried about my safety, and finally gained a sense of what this job is all about. I remember griping back at FSI about the vagueness of the training, and non-specific answers to questions about what we were supposed to do as a political officer. And I realize now that the answers we received were vague because there really isn’t an answer. There are case studies, if/then scenarios that can be discussed, but an answer? No, singularities such as that isn’t what this is about.

In whole, it’s an ever changing lifestyle. The social aspects, being a “rep”… it becomes a second skin that you easily don on and off.

Though a downside of the job are the inevitable blatant users. For example, I had dinner with a group of people; friends of my friend, who the dinner was in honor of. One person sticks out because of the interesting turnaround in her behavior after she found out what I did for a living. When she thought I was “just another Korean” – I wasn’t worth bothering with. But an American diplomat with access to the PX, well, that’s another story. Immediately became chatty, asked if I could “help her out”. tsk tsk….

But I don’t regret it. Now, it’s bidding season, and I’m worrying over my bid list, wondering which places to list, what I need to put in my narrative, etc. 2nd tour will be 2012 onward…………


Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, annoyance, Bidding, commentary, work | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The New Year

Posted by quirksalight on January 1, 2011

Looking back on 2010, it’s been a crazy ride. A year of massive changes in all aspects of my life, from work, dating, friends, and location, roller-coastering is a mild way of describing it.

January: Move to NYC, received and accepted my invitation to the 152nd A-100 class.

February: Prep for starting, snowmaggedon of DC, met some interesting folk in NYC

March: Meet up with friends in NY for the last time in a while, learned to snowboard properly; Move back to DC for A-100!

April: Complete A-100, first post is Seoul, Korea.

May: POL/ECON training

June: Pack out, good-byes to friends and family; arrive in Seoul on June 24.

July: 2+2, get to meet Secretary Clinton,

August: Another year older…

September: Chuseok, Typhoons and Conferences

October: Bangkok!

November: G-20, Yeonpyong Island, Marine Ball, St. Andrews Ball, Thanksgiving feast for 25

December: Eating across Asia with friends; Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore; military exercises off the western coast of South Korea. Holidays with friends old and new; ringing in the New Year with new friends, very grateful for the year that had just wrapped up.

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, musings, vacation, work | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The first week

Posted by quirksalight on July 4, 2010

Was pretty freakin’ amazing!

This past week was my first week as a Political officer in Embassy Seoul. The first thing I learned was the inherent uncertainty in the job. Walking into the Political section to meet my colleagues for the first time, I’m told that I’m being moved to the external section. Apparently there was a shake up of the three incoming political officers and their positions. Totally cool with me – the portfolio in both external and internal was excellent, and I would have been happy with either. In fact, this move ended up being great, as I had a 1 week overlap with my predecessor in the job, so I was able to pick her brain, shadow her, and go through my first demarches, interviews, etc, and get feedback. Such a great entry into my first posting, seriously! It took a bit of the edge of the “trial by fire” nature of the job.

Paperwork, of course, was everywhere and is actually still continuing. There are a LOT of stuff to take care of coming to post, and it never fails to amaze me how streamlined Embassy Seoul has made to make the process as painless as possible. This could have been a complete mess, but it has been entirely the opposite, from getting my badge/ID to dealing with random internet and household problems, very efficient and prompt.

And that gets to the one part of living here that’s new to me; living on Yongsan base. Embassy Seoul has the distinction of being the only posting where you live on a military base. It was logistical sense; the base is in prime location, at the heart of Seoul, and is already leased by the US government. However, it creates a slight disconnect, as living on base is very similiar to living in a US suburb, when you go on and off base. I’ve never lived on a military base, or really spent much time on one, so I’m getting used to the whole rules and regs of it. There are a lot of conviences, and the base housing is pretty spacious, especially for me, when I’ve spent my time in studio/1-bedroom apts or sharing a house with other students.

Just a hint to all the A-100 grads who are working their first 4th of July party: Wear comfortable shoes! My feet were killing me after standing for 4 hours.

This job is amazing. I’m exhilarated with the opportunity that’s in front of me, and what the position is asking of me. Indeed, uncertainty is happiness.

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, challenges, Embassy Seoul, Korea, People, surprise | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

4 days

Posted by quirksalight on June 20, 2010

So I’m at the point where I can count the days I have remaining on one hand, and this is my last weekend in the US, the last weekend before I’m a working FSO at my first post.

It’s been a great weekend. A raucous night with my classmates and the 151st on Friday followed by a fantastic going away party thrown by JL and LL in Georgetown on Saturday night. I’m really going to miss my friends, old and new, much more than when I left before.

It’s strange – I’ve done this before, get ready to move to Korea. It’s mildly deja vu-ish; 2 years and 4 months ago, I was doing the same thing. Yet, it’s oh-so-different. Different bags, a lot more stuff, and definitely more paperwork (seriously!), but heading to the same country on the same airline with the same layover in SanFran. 😛

Some parts of this is weird – I don’t see myself as all that different from the person I was in my previous trip, but to those who knew me then, I’ll be a cat of a different coat. Hopefully this won’t affect how we interact and see each other, as people, but this is something I guess we all have to “see what happens”.

C’est la vie.

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, DC, friends, fun, Korea, training | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Match and Set

Posted by quirksalight on May 25, 2010

A-100 is over, POL/ECON training wrapped up, got my Diplomatic Passport, applied for the Korean visa, and now, I’ve got my flight set. In the wee hours of June 23rd, I’ll be boarding a plane, most of my effects having preceded me, to start my first post at Embassy Seoul.
It’s a month away, and I waver between, “can’t get here fast enough” to “wait! I need to tie up everything here neatly with a little bow!”

But that never happens, does it? The latter, I mean. You do you best, but time waits for no one and you’ve gotta go then they call for boarding. Cheers to that!

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, Korea | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Swearing in and beyond

Posted by quirksalight on May 4, 2010

Today is May 3rd, and the first day of my post-A-100 training.

On April 30th, we, the 152nd A-100 class, stood in the Acheson auditorium in the Truman building, and was sworn into the Foreign Service by Secretary Clinton.

Yes, we were sworn in on the first day of A-100, but this…. it was really freakin’ cool, that the Secretary of State came to administer the oath in front of our friends and family, to usher us into our new careers with State.

Next up, 7 more weeks until my expected departure. I’m still waiting on official paperwork so I can get some more paperwork running. While I wait, I’m in additional training, more specific to what I’ll be doing in Seoul. POL/ECON tradecraft, as they call it.

Posted in 152nd, adventure, ancedotes, future, training | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Flag Day! aka, where I’ll be for the next 2 years…

Posted by quirksalight on April 25, 2010

As you can see, it was Flag Day yesterday, and the 152nd A-100 class all received their first posts. We’ll be scattered across 50+ countries, with a handful of DC posts. Some of us will be leaving within the next 2-3 months, while others will be around until 2011.


I’m heading to Seoul this summer, in approximately 8-10 weeks! Woot! Woot!

Posted in 152nd, adventure, commentary, Korea, Seoul | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »


Posted by quirksalight on April 10, 2010

There are several considerations that need to be factored in when you’re in the bidding process.
Personal preferences, the tenure requirements, and CNL and SCNL requirements, if applicable.
And of course, there is the trump factor, which is the needs of the service.

In my case, I received and took the +0.4 bonus for passing the Korean language test. This bump on the register got me to A-100 faster, and in turn, requires me to serve in a Korean speaking post in one of my first two tours. In addition, tenure requirements include passing proficiency in a language and serving a Consular position for at least one year. Considering the proficiency in Korean is 2/0 (Speaking/Reading), I’m reasonably sure that I’ll pass it. And I’m Consular coned, so that requirement will be easy to fulfill. So the main issue (excluding the trump factor) is how the Korean post will interact with my personal preferences.

My main preferences are to be in the developing world, with a high danger/differential; to learn either French, Russian, or Arabic as a third language; to use my science background. The likelihood of meeting all preferences is highly improbable, and I realize that. The likelihood with the preferences coming into conflict with the needs of the service; who knows? I know and am OK with being sent wherever my skills will be best utilized; it may not be my top choice, but it’s something that anyone who’s serious about the FS has be OK with.

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The List

Posted by quirksalight on March 31, 2010

Today, at the end of training, we received the LIST. The bid list, which shows us the available posts that we could be sent to. Some require no language and have an estimated departure in a couple months; others are the complete opposite. I believe we all started cheering when they passed it out. 🙂

From this point, we have about 2 weeks to research and decide how we are going to bid on the posts, taking into consideration preferences, languages, etc.

It’s pretty sweet. There’s a great deal of variety in the 100+ posts available to us, with a good representation of all regions. Time to get cracking on the decision calculus!

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First Day

Posted by quirksalight on March 29, 2010

“I, [state your name.] do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. That I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me, God.”

On Monday morning, the 152nd class Foreign Service Officer class stood up in the Henderson Auditorium of Main State and took the above oath of office, swearing us in. Exciting, scary, exhilarating, and surprised, I had to admit I got a bit of a chill down my back as I stood, repeating the oath with the other 92 members of my class. It’s really on!

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