Uncertainty can be happiness

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

Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category

Anniversary

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 »

Commonality

Posted by quirksalight on April 3, 2011

The most common question I get, considering my educational background, is, “How did you go from biomedical engineering to the Foreign Service?”

Convoluted? Yes and no. There’s a bit of history, and the kernels behind all this were placed a long time ago. In high school, I was on the high school debate team and that ignited my interest in politics and international relations. However, I was rather obsessed with science and had dreams of developing a treatment/device that would revolutionize medicine. It wasn’t until grad school, after being burned out of medical research, when I had to start thinking of, “now what?”. My temporary answer was to take a leave of absence for a year and teach English in Korea. That’s one of the earlier points in this blog, back in 2007.

But in Korea, teaching was one thing, but straddling two cultures socially and linguistically was a whole ‘nother beast. Plus, I came to Korea at a political change; for the first time in 10 years, the progressive party was out of office and the conservatives came into power the month I arrived, March 2008. This combined with my background in Korean culture and language, sciences, and interest in politics led to some interesting discussions with the faculty in my middle school, handling getting punched on a subway, acting as a facilitator for my foreign friends in Korea, and occasionally having to explain what the U.S. government was doing to my students, colleagues, and friends.

I really enjoyed that interaction – facilitating the understanding between two cultures, though not so much the getting hit part. Which led me to starting thinking about the Foreign Service. I always planned to go into public service, someday, when I was on the academic track. But I hadn’t thought about it again until when I was in Korea, pondering my next step. So I did – FSOT exam date was November 5, 2008. I got the acceptance in to the QEP in December 2008, decided not to sign a teaching contract for another year, gambling that I would pass the QEP and get to the OA, which I did. So I left Korea, with a freelance editing gig, prepped for the OA and passed on June 15, 2009. A year later, I was prepping to leave DC for my first tour as a POL officer in Seoul. whew! What a whirlwind…

Posted in ancedotes, commentary, election 2008, Graduate school, Korea, New York, school, Science, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Hong Kong!

Posted by quirksalight on December 9, 2010

I’m skipping blogging on the Korea part because Jen’s got that one covered. 🙂
As you can see, the goal of our trip to Korea and HK is to hang out with old friends, but to have a gastronomical adventure in Asia. hee hee…

But today was one of adjustment… got up at 5am to catch the flight to HK, and had to take a nap because I was so tired. Pretty sure I overpacked, but meh… not exactly sure what is needed. But mainly, we were walking around in Kowloon and getting a scope of the place. I noticed that it appears to be more crowded on the streets than in Seoul…. but I’ll have to take stock of that in the coming days. A data point of one isn’t really telling much, no?

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, commentary, fun, Korea, travel, vacation | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Shoes

Posted by quirksalight on July 18, 2010

Why am I blogging about shoes?

Well, it’s not just a piece of leather, suede, plant-based, or man-made materials that shod your feet. They can be iconic, witty, gorgeous, hideous, comfortable, and painful. And they are a bit more important than I thought to a FSO’s job.

In the Foreign Service, we are considered to be generalists, jack-of-all trades, etc. And with that moniker, comes the job, which means that we can be called to do anything and everything as the need arises. So, if you need to sprint up and down the length of Incheon International Airport so you can meet the visitor who’s itinerary you are in charge of, you better have comfortable, well-padded, shoes.

Of course, never having thought that I would be sprinting up and down Incheon airport, praying that I would be able to meet up with my visitor, I was not wearing the said comfy shoes. Instead, I was wearing a pair of lovely maroon suede, 3″, Mary Jane style heels. Which, in a normal trip to the airport would be fantastic and just fine. This case, 3 blisters the size of Kansas (actually, 1-2cms), smaller areas rubbed raw, and all joints in my legs serious questioning my sanity and sense of judgement.

That said, my visitors (Yes, I’ve been here 3 weeks and this shoe business happened twice) were never the wiser of the behind the scene nuttiness and were apparently quite happy with my planning and organization skills.

Lesson learned. Keep the smile on your face, go above and beyond the requirements and you’ll be rewarded, and get better shoes. Yes, I bought out a chunk of Rockport’s inventory in Itaewon, 5 pairs of shoes this week. Screw the blisters and the like; this is a career investment. 🙂

Posted in adventure, airports, amusing, ancedotes, commentary, Embassy Seoul, fun, Incheon, Korea, People, shopping, work | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

To my Orientation instructors:

Posted by quirksalight on July 14, 2010

I’ve got a car. Will be getting a PDA
Overtime? Normal.
Visitors? Check!
Demarches, cables, meets and greets. Yup. all the time.

It’s a rush. I’m writing this on a break from transcribing notes from earlier in the day. Schedule is unpredictable, and am very glad that I was able to see my family before the storm (figurative) hit, work wise. Currently, I’m on my third set of delegation/visitors/POC stuff in under three weeks. Sets 2 and 3 overlap, which makes for mind-spinning schedules upon schedules upon schedules. Pretty energizing stuff. 😛

The drinking from the fire hose continues, long after we’ve left your immediate merry sphere of influence. I’m treading water.

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, commentary, Embassy Seoul, Korea, meeting, metaphors | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Mine?

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

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

Anatomy of a concluding date

Posted by quirksalight on March 1, 2010

1. Late for everything… I guess that’s what happens when your day gets moving at noon.
2. Barrage of e-mail chatter. Working? Maybe. 🙂
3. Joining my friends and I for drinks…smooth intersection of worlds
4. East Village wander… not so good in heels
4. Sushi run…Oops, 30 mins before closing!
5. Just….talking.
6. Bunk beds are fun.
7. Early morning (comparatively), without questions or answers
8. Great coffee – sharp, just as how the end of a whirlwind week feels.

Mon evening –> Friday morning. 38 hours. Interesting math, eh?

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, commentary, dating | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Changes

Posted by quirksalight on February 26, 2010

It’s time to change the tagline of this blog. “The year I walked away from grad school” isn’t really appropriate anymore. The title is still applicable to the Foreign Service process, though.
Any ideas?

Posted in blogging, commentary | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Anatomy of a great date

Posted by quirksalight on February 25, 2010

1. Dinner, with musicians and watching spontaneous dancers
2. Hop out to Brooklyn’s Hotel Delmano
3. Sample fantastic concoctions and discover new single malts in an ambiance reflecting a speakeasy from the ’20s, all the while in a bewildering, curiously confusing thrall over the other and the situation
4. Chat up and make friends with the bartender, who in turn, generously offers the two of you samples of some brilliant single malts.
5. Close down the bar
6. Laughing, jumping in a cab to a hole-in the wall pizza joint
7. In-hand, onward to the next destination!
8. Musings, laughter, further down the rabbit hole
9. Separating due to previous commitments…..
10. Cancelling your noon appointment due to fatigue. Oops.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, commentary, dating | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Musings

Posted by quirksalight on February 25, 2010

Now that I’ve got a start date, it seems that it’s so far away and at the same time, so soon. I’m in NYC, and there are so many people I want to meet up with and places to see, things to do, etc, before starting. It’s nice; freelancing and living in an awesome town on a bit of a working vacation for two months. I’m one month in, one two go, and I am definitely going to miss living here. Living the single life in Manhattan is friggin’ awesome! Apparently my life is a) the beginnings of a Rom-Com; b) a real-life sitcom; c) Karma at work; d) Sex in the City. 😛 Not too sure about the last one, but hey, I think it’s flattering.

On the upside, the paperwork is chuggin’ along…. Got the final salary determination settled, signed and faxed my agreement letter yesterday to State HR. The immediate baggage (UAB, or the stuff that gets sent to me in training) is scheduled for pick up, and I’m working on arranging my storage stuff for later in the year, as the majority of my stuff is in my parents’ basement, close to FSI.

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, commentary, New York, NYC | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »