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Winding down, winding up

This is my last week in Washington D.C. for a while. The weather has just started to turn nice. That doesn’t seem fair. I had to endure the harshest winter that the city has seen in years, and just when the flowers start to bloom and the birds start to sing, I have to leave. However, I the reason that I joined the Foreign Service wasn’t so that I could stay in Washington. I’m glad to be going to my first post.

The last several days have been occupied by re-organizing my luggage, cleaning out my refrigerator (by strategically eating the food and not replacing it), and doing the administrative paperwork to change my work location from D.C. to China.

I also have to do some “documentable” training this week. There are regulations that we have to be “working” while at the Foreign Service Institute. If we are not in regularly-scheduled training classes, then we have to show that we have been actively learning. So I have been taking online training classes. There are a lot of short online courses available through the Department’s intranet system. I chose several that are relevant to my future work. Today I took a course on how to adjudicate a visa petition, and how to request revocation of the petition when fraud is suspected. It sounds boring, and in fact I had to force myself to pay attention while taking the course, but it’s an important topic, and it would be irresponsible for me not to know the content.

On Monday morning I will go to the FSI in the morning and deactivate my Department email address. After I arrive at post, my account will be reactivated. It makes sense for every post to maintain its own IT system. Because we have posts in 190 countries, literally all over the world, it wouldn’t be practical to run all the Department’s email and data networks from one centralized location. So every post manages its own email system, and the systems are then linked together. The side effect of that arrangement is that individuals’ email accounts are tied to the location where they are posted. So my email account will have to be transferred from the FSI in Washingon to my new post’s servers in China. The State Department’s IT infrastructure is a complex system.

Tomorrow, Friday, will be my last Happy Hour gathering with my classmates. We have already said good-bye to several people, but many will stay while they are in long-term language training. Some of my classmates will leave later this summer, but some won’t leave until this autumn, and some people who are studying “super-hard language” will not leave until the end of the year. Saying good-bye to my new friends will be hard. I have developed warm friendships with many of my classmates, and it’s sad to think that after this training period, we will spend the rest of our careers at various posts around the world, so we will rarely see each other again.

But life will go on.

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