Let me issue my usual disclaimer: I am allowed to join Snakes for the next 24 weeks as we learn to speak Portuguese at a “professional level”. I am totally grateful for this opportunity. Our situation is ideal for me to be able to participate in such a generous benefit. After two days spent at the Foreign Service Institute, I am feeling positively misplaced. I guess it’s my infamous, “take it as it comes” attitude that never allowed me to fully process the massive commitment that language training requires. (As I write, I have Brazilian soap operas playing in the background, developing “my ear”. I’ll admit to delighting in the notion that I could learn an entire language from a soap opera. I like to imagine myself at a market in Luanda, breaking into an eyelash batting emotive soliloquy, followed up by gut wrenching, lipgloss smearing sobs, ending with me on my knees, face to the heavens, fists clenched tightly to my ample bosom… insisting that I’VE ALWAYS LOVED ONLY YOU..!…! to the shopkeeper. Anyway, glad I’m attending proper classes to round out my vocab.)

Here’s the rub… I feel like such a poser! I feel like I’ve done NOTHING to deserve to be here. Many of these people have toed the line, tested, fretted, retested, stressed out entirely, interviewed, then waited and waited to finally make it here, a trail of flow charts and spreadsheets in their wake. It’s a life long dream realized. I get a little choked up when I think of how hard everyone has worked to get here. While I danced the night away to a brass band in New Orleans without a care in the world, these people were graduating from places like Columbia, Northwestern and UCLA. While I finished my piece-meal education at a public university that required little more than a pulse and a credit card for admission, these people were passing the bar exam or flying airplanes on top secret missions. And now, my jazzy little turkey sandwich sits next to theirs in the hallway fridge. Yeah. Me, a gangly girl from western Michigan who grew up with her mom and sister on a sandy dirt road pocked with chatter bumps which threatened to fishtail any driver who dared to give it too much gas.

I suppose it doesn’t help my confidence that the weather has been relentlessly inhumane, over 100 degrees every day. I’ve chronicled the challenges that my particular mop presents here before, so I won’t go into great detail. Let’s just say that motorcycle helmets + wet, naturally curly/frizzy hair + two months past due at the salon + ridiculous heat= a wicked rat’s nest perched atop my head, coaxed begrudgingly into a “bun”. I’m amazed they let me through security. I look insane with my make-up dripping from my red flushed face (“sun-blasted” from the 107 degree motorcycle ride), hair in a twisted up post-helmet ‘do, assembled whilst dragging myself through the parking lot peering hastily into darkened car windows. I’ve been operating under the false impression that the older I got, the more civilized I’d become. Oh! Cruel and humid world, could I be further from the truth?


10 thoughts on “interloper

  1. I pity you for the heat you’re being forced to endure and that you have to assemble something remotely professional looking as far as your appearance is concerned! But I’m insanely jealous that you’re able to take advantage of language training. I also feel very strongly that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else and your eventual fluency in Portuguese is going to be just one more wonderful thing you’ve got to offer. I can’t wait to hear you speak like Seu Jorge. You’ve inspired me to learn the language of wherever we end up.
    Good Luck!!!

  2. Here’s a little secret – just between us… I feel the same way. In fact, I think many of us at FSI feel that way. That everyone else earned their way in, while I/we just got lucky, or some such. Just sayin.


    Luck be a lady tonight…
    Medusa, you are not.
    Homer, your writings flow and somehow, in a very weird way turn into a video on my head- my brain somehow dies a rectify to tube translation, where I see you saying and doing these things, really cool.
    I’m getting too Greek on you…

    There are always at least 2 ways to look at things.

    1. You are lucky (and you are) but that’s a good thing
    2. You and Snakes are moving to Angola…
    A happy wife makes a happy life. So anything that can make you happier will help Snakes do his job better. Sure you are attending the course, but what extra cost do you create? You have to do the work, you have to put in the time, and you are also helping Snakes at the same time.

    Luck be a lady tonight…
    I love your living day by day, your smile, your friendliness and your humble positive attitude.

    So let me ask you a question, they just teach the same course. You bring all this great karma to class, for free… Who is lucky?

  4. i agree w the others, you “deserve” to be there as much as anyone else! I hear that many FSOs feel the same way- your feelings aren’t limited only to spouses!
    good luck in Portuguese! I think you are SO lucky to be learning that beautiful language! (why does every one of my sentences have an exclamation point??)

  5. .Hello my darling Fuzz Bucket! Your participation in Portuguese class is a gift to you,to Snakes and to everyone you will be meeting once you arrive at your post! Enjoy it to the hilt. Rock on! LYTP mom

  6. It is called imposter syndrome. Lots of us have it. It is the idea that they will eventually figure out that they made a mistake letting us in and soon they will find out and kick us out.

    You deserve to be here. And I say that not just as an officer but as someone who was once “only” an officer’s spouse (we’re still married, we are just a “tandem” now). Spouses sacrifice every bit as much as officers to serve. They are vital in ways big and small. Just like military spouses, FS spouses are serving our country. You stood by Snakes through every step of this process. You deserve to be here.

    And by the way, I too went to a public school. And I am an American Indian kid from a mill village, the first in my family to graduate college. I didn’t even know that diplomats were anything other than presidential appointees until about 9 years ago. Yes, really.

    1. Thanks, Digger.
      That last bit made me smile, until a little over a year ago, when this whole process began, I considered diplomats to be “American Royalty”. Appointees, rich kids of business men who needed a favor from a congressman to keep them out of trouble. I had no idea it was people like all of us. Wow, indeed.

  7. I’m an FSO with two Ivy League degrees and (once upon a time) a near-perfect SAT score. And in my language class at FSI? Well, I am solidly in the bottom quarter in terms of performance.

    Who is at the top in my languge (a small department)? A guy with a degree from a public school that I had never heard of, with no work experience before joining the FS. It’s not all about book smarts. He has a great personality and clearly a knack for communicating and learning languages. Watching him grow in our language is both incredibly frustraing and fascinating.

    Fortunately for me, he is also completely non-judgemental and wants everyone to progress as far as they can so that we will all have a great experience at Post. (We’re all headed to the same city.)

    So do not be intimidated! There are lots of different types of “smarts,” and it’s impossible to predict how anyone will do in language training. I have to say that I am learning as much about myself through this process as I am about my language.

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