Thursday, June 3, 2010

12 days and counting

Chocolate éclairs, croissants, goat and feta and camembert cheeses, nutella banana crepes, pommes frites, full-fat cappuccinos, red and white and rose wine... Paris is a bad place to be on a diet. But we know this already.

Paris is an even worse place to be when the mind is expected to be elsewhere. Something – or someone – beautiful, charming, fascinating, or utterly quaint can literally be discovered around any corner here. Paris, for lovers of all things lovely – from a bustling sidewalk café, to an artisan fragrance shop, to an outdoor marketplace, to an empty wooden bench resting peacefully by the River Seine – is easily one of the most distracting cities in the world.

This is particularly true today, June 3, when a frustratingly lazy sun has finally decided to join us here on this side of the Atlantic. Along with it comes the sundresses, sandals, sunburns, tourists, sidewalk musicians, outdoor festivals, picnics in the park, cold beers and beautiful barely-dressed people... basically, every reason in the world to be outside. So what is the problem, you ask? Simply put: my mind is expected to be somewhere else.

In a matter of days – 12, to be exact (but who's counting?) – I will be in the midst of what just might be the toughest experience of my life thus far. The Foreign Service Oral Assessment. Oh dear.

Until I (much too recently) joined the Yahoo Group dedicated to the FSOA and began to comb through the thousands of files and messages posted there, I admittedly had not yet comprehended the significance of this experience, or the astounding fact that I was invited to the assessment in the first place, or the extent of painstaking preparation I will need to put into this. As I come to terms with all of this nerve-wracking reality, I realize that I have a total of 12 days to comb through my entire life history: to recall and reflect upon 36 years of one life; 20 years of work and educational experiences; a decade of travel adventures and the many places I have been, seen and lived; people I have known, those who have known me. As I try to remain calm, I can’t help but hear a clock ticking oh so loudly, practically screaming in my ear, warning me that I had better disregard Paris and the hot summer sun and invitations to picnic on the edge of the Canal. There is work to be done, after all!

I hear that darn clock – it would be impossible not to. But it's so pretty out today, and I find myself wandering aimlessly and lovingly through the district of Le Marais, window shopping, people watching, mentally perusing the long list of all the many things I want to do here. I round a corner, and there before me is the splendid Hotel de Ville, rising up against a deep blue sky. I remember there is a photography exhibit here that I am curious to see. It's on my list. As I approach the entrance, I take a deep breath and think to myself: could another hour of procrastination really hurt?


  1. Best of luck on the oral assessment. Try to keep this in mind: State already looked at your essays and decided they want you. This is just your chance to seal the deal.

    If you are interested, check out my blog at I have a blogroll of more than 200 FS blogs, plus I have several posts about taking the oral assessment (back in November, if memory serves...). You can also email me if you have any questions at

  2. You have a mind like a steel trap, you will be able to get it all out there, and they will love you. I mean common, who wouldn't?



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