Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things are moving fast

This past week I spent a fun two days in Communications and Field Equipment training, which basically meant learning how to use satellite phones and radios (also some computer stuff, digital cameras, etc, but I already knew how to do that stuff), and then we had to practice by going out in public and very suspiciously taking pictures of random things and talking cryptically on our radios.  We definitely got some weird looks, but I figure we were being too obvious and ridiculous for anyone to really be suspicious of us.

And that was it for all my random fun trainings, at least for now.  Next week I start studying French full-time.  Six hours a day in class, I think one-on-one, just me and a tutor.  It's going to be painful, but hopefully my French will get better really fast.

That's supposed to last for six weeks, or however long it takes until I can pass the French test.  EXCEPT, yesterday at work (yes, I was at work the day after Thanksgiving - I haven't earned very many vacation days yet, and I'm trying to save them up) my supervisor told me that they want to put me on the Somalia Task Force out in Nairobi (which sounds super cool, except that I won't get to go on any field trips to Somalia because it's too dangerous), and they want to get me out there as soon as possible, so they're talking about waiving my language and whatever other requirements so I can leave really soon.  So I might be leaving much sooner than I had expected, maybe in just a month or so.

I'm really excited about going to Nairobi eventually, but in a month?  Wow.  I was counting on being here til at least March (which would be one year since I came back from Peace Corps).  And I've been so happy in DC these last eight months, with all my friends, and my cute little apartment, and my cool job (okay, the Somalia task force sounds more interesting than what I'm doing now, but even so)... So I'm a little stressed, not sure if I'm excited about this or not, but I'm sure it'll all work out fine however it works out, so I'm going to try to just keep on with what I'm doing until I find out for sure what's happening.  (My supervisor said she'd let me know about the expedited moving thing within a week or two).

So we'll see.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Driving training, part 2

The rest of the week of driving training was just as good and fun as the first day, if not better.  Still can't tell you all about it, except that: I got to learn to drive stick shift!

I've only ever tried to learn to drive stick shift one time before, shortly after I got my license when I was sixteen.  My grandma tried to teach me out in the pastures on their farm on this ancient, broken-down truck (the gas pedal didn't even have the flat pedal-part attached to it anymore, it was just this metal stick/wire thing coming out of the floorboard, hard to find with your foot and even harder to put the right amount of pressure on).  Even experienced drivers had trouble driving that truck, so sixteen-year-old me couldn't even get it into first gear - it just stalled every time, and (did I mention the brakes were pretty much shot?) then we would start rolling backwards towards the pond, and my grandma would be yelling at me to get the truck started again and get it moving so we wouldn't fall into the pond...

So I came out of that experience thinking that driving stick shift was really, really hard.  And then I just never had another chance to try to learn until now.  It wasn't on the schedule for our driving training, but the instructors took pity on me when they found out I couldn't drive stick at all and gave me personalized instruction for an hour (along with one other student who also didn't know how to do it, which made me feel a little better).  And it turns out driving stick is super easy if it's with a car that actually works right.  (At least, it's super easy if you're on a closed course with no pressure from traffic and it doesn't really matter if you happen to crash into anything.  But I think I'd be fine driving in a normal setting as well.)

Anyway, so yay for driving training!  Now I am just wishing I got the opportunity to drive more often, but I guess I will get plenty of that in Nairobi - driving on the left side of the road, no less - that should be interesting.

Former Gates Foundation exec Raj Shah to head USAID

Article in the Seattle Times about the probable new Administrator for USAID.  Now if we could just get a director for OFDA too...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Driving training

So I have survived my first day of driving training, and I would love to tell you all about it, but pretty much the first thing the instructor told us this morning was that what we're learning this week is sensitive information, and so we shouldn't go blabbing about it or leave our books lying around where someone might see them.  Because we don't want the bad guys to know how we're trained to react if we're attacked, so that they can attack us better.

My first thought when he said that, though, was: if the bad guys are coming all the way to Virginia to get information on me or to attack me, I am in big trouble, and I don't think this course is going to be enough to keep me safe.

But instead of telling you what I've been up to, I will just say this:  Bad Guys, I am learning all kinds of crazy stuff you do not want to have to deal with.  So don't mess with me!