Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Move along now

Just got back from a camping trip with Red that ended in complete disaster. It started so promising with a visit to Red's best friend "Cake Baker" down in Austin. We had a great time watching the Saints win with some crazy Louisianians.

The next day we charged up with coffee and headed out to Colorado Bend State Park, about a hour and a half drive from Austin. The weather channel called for 60's and sun with an overnight around the 40's. What we got was 60's and clouds and an overnight in the low 20's. Needless to say, camping in sub-freezing temperatures is a miserable experience.

We woke up to find a thin layer of frost covering everything, looked at each other, and decided mother nature had won this time. After retreating to the car and trying to resuscitate our trembling limbs it was clear that we weren't going to be camping another night.

Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise because now I have more time to catch up on my reading. Diplomacy is a fascinating book and fills in the gaps, but with a such a huge cast of characters, countries and alliances, it takes a lot of concentration to keep everything straight.

All for now, I will upload a few photos from the camping trip as soon as I can find the camera.

Dutch Man

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Cones, Tests and Interns

Happy MLK day. I am using my day off to catch up on some studying, practice tests and writing an intern plan for "Red" and "Blondie's" company. Hopefully after I finish up the FSOT (Foreign Serive Officer Test) I will have time to play a more active role.

I would like to take a few minutes and explain exactly what the Foreign Service is, what "cone" I am choosing, and how the test is formatted.

First, what the Foreign Service is. I am essentially applying to become a diplomat. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 Foreign Service Officers employed by the State Department, organized into five different "cones" or specialties. They are as follows: Economic, Public Diplomacy, Political, Management and Consular. I've chosen Political.

The main duties of the Political cone are to follow political events within the host country and send any developments up the chain of command. Also, a political FSO (Foreign Service Officer) will communicate official statements from the U.S. government to host country officials.

A successful political FSO needs have reliable contacts within the host country, able provide consistent and accurate information; travel widely and understand local language and customs; be able to negotiate and communicate effectively with host country officials.

For more information check out the State Department's website.

The FSOT is the first step in the process, after the initial application, towards becoming a FSO. The FSOT has four sections comprising of one essay, a job knowledge portion, EE or English expression and a short answer/multiple choice biographical section.

To say the test is hard would be an understatement. Known as the test that can't be studied for or the Jeopardy test, the FSOT is a comprehensive examination of politics, history, the supreme court, congress, the president, management, economics, trade relations, popular culture, grammar, world history, geography, math and statistics.

With such a large swath of subjects to study, picking and choosing what books to read is crucial to passing the FSOT. I've opted for a mixture of text books including English grammar, essay writing, organizational management, AP world history, Oxford's history of the 20th century and two FSOT exam prep books. To supplement this I am also reading Kissinger's Diplomacy, listening to POTUS, NPR and BLOOMBERG news, reading the Economist, Foreign Policy and renting two 5 part documentaries on the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Throw in websites like, and the invaluable Yahoo group dedicated to the FSOT, and I feel as though I am covering my bases pretty well.

I will receive my testing date via email sometime in late January and most likely will take the exam towards the end of February. Until then it is nose-to-the-grindstone studying.

Dutch Man

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Yes I know, it's a pretty warmed over Chinese proverb but I feel that it still rings true. To bring you all up to speed, which means an audience of about 3, I am a returned Peace Corps volunteer or RPCV attempting to join the Foreign Service. More on that later.

I recently completed a two year and change stint in the country of Moldova working in a small village, promoting community development and health education. To say that the experience was life changing would be an understatement.

After an up and down two years, mostly up, with Peace Corps, I returned home for a nice leisurely jaunt around the United States for about 6 weeks with with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer and great friend "little guy". We camped, we hiked, we ate and really got to know our home country again out of the back of a VW Jetta.

When the road trip to end all road trips finally did end, I moved in with my beautiful, smart and very patient girlfriend "red". The past two years had been tough on the both of us but also strengthened our relationship in ways I could not have foreseen.

So that brings us to now, the point of this blog. I am preparing to take the FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test). I need a forum to write out my thoughts, perhaps place some of my practice essays up for universal criticism and generally receive feedback on how I am ruining my life or making one of the greatest Decisions EVER!

So what will you find here? Some musing on current events, meaningless personal anecdotes, some of life's follies and foibles and one man's journey of what feels like a thousand miles.

What won't you find? Personal attacks, names of friends and family, breaches of the Non-Disclosure Agreement and finally that all opinions are those of the writer and not of Peace Corp, State department or any other organization.

So stick around reader....

Dutch Man