Holy cow that language test was!

I just took the telephone Chinese test. I can’t give too many details about the test, because I am under a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The test was all speaking and listening, which is not surprising, since it was a telephone test. The interviewer was a Mainlander, so it’s a good thing that I’ve been listening to CCTV news from China. The interviewer’s accent didn’t confuse me.

The topic of conversation was at a high level, focusing on current events in the US and China. I think that I held my own in the conversation, asking questions and giving my opinions.

There was also an interview portion, where I had to ask questions in Chinese, then report back the contents of the interview in English. That part was a little easier for me. My court interpreting experience was very valuable in that task.

I think that I did well on the test. I could have done better, but I was a little nervous at first.

The whole thing took less than 20 minutes. The next step is to grade the test. Another rater will listen to the recording of the test. They will then send my score to the Board of Examiners, who will give me the results. How long will that take? If you have to ask, you haven’t learned anything from my experience in applying to the Foreign Service…

P.S. The title of this blog post isn’t a typo, it’s a family joke.

Medical Clearances Completed

Stacy’s medical clearance came through. The boys and I were cleared weeks ago, but Stacy has a more interesting medical history, so she needed some additional tests. We thought that the red flag would be Tuberculosis, but it was Hepatitis that the State Department’s medical clearance office was concerned about.

Stacy reported that she was a carrier of Hepatitis B, based on what someone told her when she tried to donate blood back in college. State wanted her to get a blood test, and asked our doctor to give a report of the “viral load and treatment recommendations” for her hepatitis.

Surprisingly, the test came back negative. She isn’t a Hep B carrier after all.

Within a week of sending that report in, she was granted a world-side clearance. She can accompany my to any post anywhere in the world. Hooray!

All of this testing was not done for free. State’s policy is to have candidates bill their insurance company, and submit bills for anything that isn’t covered by insurance. Not surprisingly, quite a bit of the blood tests were not covered by our regular health insurance. I wanted to wait until all the clearances were granted, and all the charges made, before I submitted the bills to the government. Now that we have all our clearances, I can do that.

My next step is to figure out how to submit the bills. Stacy has done her usual amazing job of keeping track of all the bills and statements from the doctor’s office and insurance company. The State Department seems to be very competent and experienced in handling these medical bills, so I’m confident that they will be able to sort everything out correctly, but dealing with paperwork is always time-consuming.

In Adjudication

The security background check has entered the phase known as “adjudication.” The plethora of investigators has submitted its collective information to the office of Diplomatic Security, and now an adjudicator is evaluating the information that has been gathered about me.

At this point, my case can go in one of three directions. The first possibility, and the outcome that I am hoping for, is that the adjudicator could decide that I am eligible for a top secret security clearance, and will pass my case on to the Final Review Board. The second possibility is that the adjudicator could determine, based on the investigation, that I am a security risk. That would end my candidacy for the Foreign Service.

The third possibility is that the adjudicator could decide that more information is needed, and dispatch investigators to gather it. That would start another loop of investigation and report back to the adjudicator.

The adjudication phase is an infamous black box. Some candidates are in adjudication for 24 hours, some languish for 15 months. The process is opaque. If your adjudication is taking a long time, you can not know the reason. There is a phone number that you can call to ask the status, but all that you will be told is that your application is still in adjudication. This phase is frustrating for a lot of FS candidates, because, I think, many candidates have Type-A personalities, and want to be in control of their lives. While in adjudication, you can’t facilitate the process, and you have zero control over the outcome.

I am choosing to take a more Zen attitude toward the process, and am focusing on things that I can control, like self-mutilation and eating disorders. Just kidding. I’m enjoying the arrival of spring by running outside instead of going to the gym, and am dieting to try to lose a few pounds.

The Department of State takes this background check very seriously because Foreign Service officers need to have a top secret security clearance. It makes sense that the government has to trust the people who have access to sensitive material.

Thanks to everyone who was interviewed by Diplomatic Security. I appreciate you taking time to talk with the investigator and put in some good words for me.