nick miller frown

My aunt wants to know how I did on my language exams this week.

Spanish: I don’t know. They didn’t actually give me a score. I have a second test Tuesday.

Albanian: Also no score. But the tester gave it a Nick Miller, surprised “not to shabby” look.  He gave this little frown and was just like, “ummm that was pretty good.” He genuinely seemed surprised. Thankssss for the confidence..

Seriously I basically got no feedback. The two testers just said I need to learn how to finish my sentences when I talk for a long time. Yeah… No shiz. I’ve been learning this language for 10 weeks, so when you give me 7 minutes to talk without stopping about some picture I’m holding I’m going to back myself into some corners with sentences I don’t have the vocab to fix.

I do feel bad though for the testers having to listen to my stuttering little tale I spun about the picture I was given. They gave me this black and white picture of a guy sitting on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, looking at a night skyline view of DC. I decided to tell a story of how he was an Iraq war veteran who lost the use of his left arm and had to leave the service, only now, he couldn’t get a job in DC because he never went to college and so he is homeless and sleeps outside of Metro Centro. His only family is a rich sister who lives in the suburbs and refuses to help him minus an occasional meal.

They were like, but why did you mention the height of the washington monument and the capitol building if you weren’t going to follow up on it?

I was like, valid point, valid point that you make. I did actually start this speech that way, but I decided it was boring and decided to make a turn for the dramatic. Sorry.

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You might say Obama found America

Or, maybe Albanians might say that. Apparently “found America” is an expression in Albania which is what you might say about someone when something good happens to them. For instance, she just got accepted to the best university, “she found America.” He got a great new job, “He found America.”

Obama got reelected, so, “he found America!”

According to our speaker in Balkan Area Studies Class yesterday, you supposedly can’t find a more pro-American group of Foreigners than Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Yesterday our Albanian teacher who is now an American citizen said the line was too long in the morning to vote. She was distraught. She dismissed us 10 minutes early for lunch so she could head back to the line. She came back with her sticker super happy.

She told us we would have no homework because of course it was elections and we would have other things on our mind. First thing yesterday morning she pops her head into the classroom “Sooo??!! How late did you guys stay up until??? I was up until 1:30am watching!!”

In fact, most foreigners I know were pretty invested in the elections. All day I got facebook messages asking me if I voted yet. Then as the results came in and I was commenting on facebook, friends in Honduras, Mexico, Argentina, and Germany were commenting up a storm.

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obama

Obama won! That is all. Of course we work for any president..but..yeah. Yay!

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Spanish Exam

The testing department of FSI is considering letting people take the reading portion of the language exam online instead of in person. In order to test if the online system works they asked for volunteers to take a reading test both in person and online to see if the scores would line up.

I signed up for Spanish mostly just out of curiosity to see what I would get if tested. I was originally going to take the Spanish Exam again upon my return from Mexico in the hopes that my score would go up from a 3/3+ (3 in Speaking a 3+ in Reading. 3 is like a fluent foreigner) to a 4/4 (Native Speaker Level).

I was feeling pretty baller with the Spanish until a coworker retook her Spanish exam and got WORSE than when she went to Mexico. Now, this may happen with many people, except in her case, I know for a fact she got much better in Spanish because she was my constant Hermosillo partner in crime and we not only spoke Spanish at work, but hung out with basically only Mexicans.

But if they graded her as less than a 3/3, I probably wasn’t going to hop up to a 4/4 in their eyes so I cancelled the exam.

(If you officially retake the exam the results are final and go into your file and I couldn’t risk getting a lower score for some crazy reason).

So, today, in the middle of my two Albanian classes, I will be hopping up to the Testing Department to read insanely odd philosophical pieces in the attempts to see just how “native level” I think I really am.

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Ughh vacation

So I had three days off of work last week. DISASTROUS. I mean, I guess it was 5 including the weekend. Monday and Tuesday the federal government was shut down for Hurricane Sandy. Wednesday the government reopened, but..we did not. You see, our school was still without power.  Normally I would be all about a day or two off, but not in this case. I only suffered!

On Wednesday, two classmates and I got together for lunch to chat in Albanian. Embarrassing was what that conversation was. It’s amazing how quick our fleeting little language skills left us. The lunch was filled with many struggling “ummmms”.

Now, this week coming up we have our first exam. Not your traditional paper exam, but more like a mini final. We will be expected to carry on a conversation, or speak at length about a topic. We will also be given long readings to speedily read and quickly summarize what they are about.

From there, they will grade us just by saying we are where we should be at, or we suck. At this point I think I am supposed to be either a 0+ or a 1 in Speaking and a 1 in Reading. The scale goes 0-5. 0 being nothing and 5 (rarely achieved in any language) means university educated native. I’m actually 100% sure I wouldn’t even score a 5 in English. I think I could bust at 4+ though. I think.

By April I am supposed to have a 2/2, but of course, each level is harder to achieve than the next. Like an inverted triangle of levels. Each level has more knowledge in it.

I think with a 2 in Speaking and a 2 in Reading I will be able to converse in most situations, but on a more factual level, not really the opinion piece level. That’s a 3.

If I’m not terribly embarrassed, I’ll report how crappy I am later this week.

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Last One

Ok, maybe not the last Albanian music video I’ll try to push on you, but I’ll stop for awhile after this. I am OBSESSED with this song. Plus, this girl is so hot. I can’t say the same thing for the guy..

I guarantee you, you will like this song…if you like this music in English that is….which none of my friends do, but whatever. This is gold.

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An award!

So, in a perhaps shocking twist, it turns out, that despite how uneducated I may sound in my light and ditzy blog posts, I’m not a huge dunce. I just won an Honor Award..(well some kind of award. I don’t know what it’s called…the award is in the mail).

Back in the summer in Mexico there was a plane crash in Sinaloa that killed one American and hospitalized three American minors.  Since I was the American Citizen Services Officer I got sent down there to help the families. It was the most dramatic moment of my tour as it was a very dangerous area (I had an escort of 40 armed police officers wherever I went), and it involved various negotiations with government officials and an impromptu interview with the press, but honestly as my friend joked, I “just got an award for doing what any officer would have done.” Exactly true. But since they don’t really give out awards for doing thousands of visa interviews,  my boss nominated me for an award and the Embassy agreed, so, boom, that’s getting framed.

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That was anticlimatic

You know how New York is half flooded right now? That is not the situation in DC. Luckily, of course. After all the hype the storm calmed down during the night and we never lost our power (which doesn’t mean I will be taking the elevator anytime soon. Can’t be taking chances)

Seriously, the news was so sensational yesterday. At one point the newscaster (in DC!) says “give your family a call now, while you still have power. tell them that you love them and don’t just do it on Facebook. The Governor of Maryland says people will die today. Don’t let it be too late.”

Geez.

And yes, of course, I am glad we didn’t lose power. But I am 5% bummed. My sister and I had a whole list of things to do when the power went out..stolen from a list on the Thought Catalog blog. These were our favorites:

2. Binge eat everything in your fridge. Create wacky meals out of what might go bad.

4. Write a radio play and act it out in the dark. How very 1940s of you!

5. Stare out the window and contemplate what you’re doing with your life. JK, don’t do that.

6. Tell real-life scary stories, like the one time you didn’t have health insurance or the pregnancy test you took in college.

10. Pretend this is real-life Oregon Trail or Grapes of Wrath and you’re a member of a pioneer family. Decide who would die of what disease first.

13. Build a blanket and pillow fort. Get elaborate about it Community-style.

17. Wonder about when the lights will come back on. Speculate that it could happen at any minute. Out loud, say, “And now.” “Now.” “And now.” Try to see if you can nail it.

20. Try on all of your clothes. Mix and match stuff you would never wear together. Put on a bathing suit and a fedora, who cares?

But no. Today I have no work, and I guess I will just studioj shqip.
Read more at http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/things-you-can-do-if-you-lose-electricity/#dYfDGgK47osCVXKq.99

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Bank Run!

“I’ve got $242 in here, and $242 isn’t going to break anybody.”

Remember that scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” when there is a run on the bank? Yeah, that’s how it felt today standing in a long line at the ATM to get cash. Everyone was stocking up on cash! Hurricane Sandy is COMING.

I didn’t mean to creep, but as I said, there was a long line, and I had a viewpoint. Many people were taking out stacks. $600 was the highest I saw.

Forget the grocery store. As I put one of the last gallon water jugs into my cart this older woman turned to me and looked like she wanted to tell me something, but thought it was inappropriate.

“Um, I’m sorry, are you getting that water because of the storm?”

“Why yes, I am.”

“Well, it’s just that…I shouldn’t really say.”

“No, you’ve brought it up, you must say.”

“Well, it’s just that I worked in water treatment, and I just wouldn’t recommend that water. Not the best sanitation practices. I really hate to say get Deerpark, because I hate them for other reasons..always stealing water..but…it might be the better choice..but then of course it’s only a few days. You’ll be ok.”

Then she walks away.

Soo, not like I haven’t been exposed to terrible water around the globe, but I will admit, I put that no brand gallon jug back on the shelf.

Sunday night I played a good trained FSO roommate and made sure my roommate knew all the exits on our floor and made her help me take down valuable items in case our very large window was broken in the storm. I stock piled our bathroom, ie, “saferoom” with all essentials just iiin case we for some reason (like a broken window and windy apt) had to bunker down in there.

She rolled her eyes, but followed along.

Of course I also put in my bookbag. I’ll have to have something to do all week when class is cancelled and we have no power.

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Death of A Nation

In our Area Studies class we just finished watching a six part miniseries called Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. I must admit I knew veryyyy little about the events surrounding the fall of Yugoslavia. Most  high school history classes don’t get up to the 90s and I was about 5-10 years old during the key years so I definitely wasn’t paying attention.

The miniseries was GREAT. Super fascinating and I highly recommend it. Especially if you are one of those strange people that “only read non-fiction”.  Otherwise, I don’t think I could excite the average person enough to sit down to six hours on the Balkans, but if you did, you would be in for a treat.

I watched in rapture because the documentary basically breaks down for you all the key events about 1989-1995 with interviews from all the major players.

I mean, as the events unfold you just get so caught up in what’s going to happen, it seems like a movie, and you are just wondering in the thick of the war in Bosnia, how they are going to get out of it.

It was also really interesting watching the role of the State Department and US diplomats, since that’s me! Though obviously I am going to the Balkans in a different time, but at any point in my career the situation of the country I am in could turn and I might really play a role in a historic event. (A la Argo, which I saw today..though I have to say, if the cover I had to use to escape a country was “film crew” I think I’d have it covered.)

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