on “Mexican” food and “Tests”

Today has been a bit of a full-moon day for me. The stars were not aligned in my favor, or what have you.

I think that it all started because I couldn’t sleep last night. My imagination ran away with me, as of I had spent the last few hours in the evening either studying Slovenian or studying geography for the Foreign Service Officer Test, FSOT. (Smallest country in Africa? Gambia, which is almost completely surrounded by Senegal. Capital of Qatar? Doha. Do the Ural Mountains exist outside of Risk, the board game? Yes.) I felt flush with my geography knowledge, and confident that I would be a shoo-in. For some reason I mentally skipped over the fact that only 4% of the people who take the FSOT actually become Foreign Service Officers. Last night, all I could do was imagine myself having flown past the written and essay portions, and see myself sitting in DC wowing my interviewers with my devotion and wit. Next, it went on to where I would do my first tour. Then it mushed together with Slovenian vocabulary, and all the sudden I was saying to my self, “zivim v Estonia” (“I live in Estonia”) at some weird hour in the night. A real mess. I think a significant lowering of expectations is in order.

Anyway, I woke up early this morning, worked, worked worked, emailed a prof to ask about a test, worked some more, opened up my email again….To discover that I managed to miss a midterm. I had talked with with the professor early on in the semester, and we had agreed that since the class is all in Slovenian, for the first part of the course I would just do the readings and take the exam. The second half of the class would be a research paper. I emailed the professor this morning, to confirm that as we had discussed, the exam would be next Monday, and to ask what time should I come.

Response:

The exam was yesterday (Nov 21st  – your colleagues suggested this change because of another assignment in the week from Nov. 28th  to Dec 2nd . The information was on my page (http://mhf.fdvinfo.net). Ther will be one more possibility in January – the exact date is not fixed yet.

 

Regards,

Fantastic. I would have known about the change of test date from a website which I did not know to check, which is moreover is in a language which I do not speak.

What a great way to start the day.

Next up:

I went to a very popular “Mexican” food restaurant with some friends from Romania. They suggested it. To be fair, I agreed. A little masochistic part of me wanted to see the train wreck that it Mexican food outside of the Northwestern hemisphere, ok? I had Pollo Asado. Which apparently translates into small slices of poached chicken breast floating around in a creamy peanut sauce over lettuce. Rice was served on the side, which I took as the central homage to Mexico (or Asia). On of the girls I was with had fried, breaded chicken pieces with what I’m sure was Americanish jarred bbq sauce. The other had a Chimichunga. Which is not actually Mexican food to start with, I know. This rendition was not so much the classic deep-fried burrito, as it was an enchilada looking thing, not deep fried. It was stuffed with chicken pieces like mine and a few corn kernels, floating around in a cheesy (?) creamy sauce.

They loved it all. General consensus was that I had ordered the best dish. This, they postulated, was probably because I would know what is best given my familiarity with Mexican food. I just nodded and smiled.

I have SO MUCH homework. Time to get back to it, and then hopefully I’ll still have time to study Slovenian and review African geography. After that I really need a full night of sleep, because right now I’m all grumps. I kind of need my eight hours, otherwise I kind of hate the world. Gr.

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My thoughts lately

People think of Europe as a prosperous place. In comparison to much of the world, it really is. However, this “Europe” is not only the Europe of the Eiffel Tower and fashionable clothes. Its also the Europe of Albania, the Ukraine, Romania and Belarus, where life is much harder.

One of my classmates, here as an exchange student from a former Soviet republic, wants desperately to immigrate to Canada or the United States. (Legally, mind you.) She isn’t the only one who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity of moving- I’ve talked with several of my classmates from other countries where there simply are no opportunities to speak of. Really, none. Even with a higher education and a Masters degree, job prospects are very few.

It’s especially tragic because my classmates are earning degrees in political science. Some of them are from places with extremely corrupt political systems, and there’s little chance of them being able to even enter the system, much less change it. When I ask these peers what they’d like to do with their degrees, a few have confessed to wanting to work in an embassy and be a diplomat. However, like any good governmental job, this will never be a reality for them without connections that they don’t have. Unlike the United States where you take a test and earn your position in the Foreign Service based off your merit, the only way you can enter the Foreign Service for many of these Eastern European countries is through knowing the right people. If your family isn’t well connected, your options are extremely limited.

I sometimes ask my classmates if they like where they are from, and if they see themselves living there both in the immediate future and later on in life. Whenever they turn the question on me, I always find myself a little stumped, and aware of my privileged position to even have the option of living in the United States. I don’t have to dream about it. It’s my home, and I know its ups and downs. I am lucky to be able to say that I’ll probably go back to the United States because not only because it’s where my family and friends live, but also because the most opportunities await me there.