Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last day in Sri Lanka

Today is my last day in Colombo!
I said goodbye to the girls with a dance party, and I've been trickling through the list of friends to say goodbye to as well. I'd forgotten how emotionally draining goodbyes can be. At least I know that most of these friends I will likely see again.

Other than goodbyes things have been going well. I'm mostly packed and I have the rest of the day to finish. I did 90% of my packing this morning, in about 45 minutes. It's nice having only two bags, it keeps me sane I think. I've read blogs of people in the FS who move a whole household every 2 years. I can't imagine, though I guess if things go to plan that will be me in a few years. First, I'll need to buy some things worth shipping overseas.

Well, take care Sri Lanka, it's been fun. I wish you hadn't been so hot and had so many mosquitos, but you've made up for it in many ways - with beautiful views, wonderful people, and something interesting around every corner. I wish you well in the future - improved waste disposal systems, vastly improved schooling, jobs (not just in the garment sector), a new highway to India, tourists, maybe even a Mexican restaurant someday. Dream big.

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 days

This week is certainly bittersweet for me. I've been very anxious lately to get home and see family and friends - I even have a new sister-in-law who I'll be meeting for the first time - and the April/May heatwave here really knocked me out, so I'm very happy to be going home. On the other hand, I'm saying goodbye to a year's worth of friends, all of the girls we work with, and a country that I've really grown to love (on it's good days of course).

The things I'll miss about Sri Lanka?
First off, my friends. I couldn't say enough about them, except that I don't want to spoil their privacy. ;) So let me just stick to the obvious. They've been with me through all the highs and lows of life in a place that is far from home and culture that is even farther. They've made me laugh and helped me enjoy all the amazing things that life has to offer here. We're scattering this year, but I hope to see them all sometime in the future, who knows, maybe even DC this year?

And secondly, Sri Lanka itself. In no particular order:
String hoppers, frangipani flowers and my pink bougainvillea, the beach, the bustle of the streets, monkeys, geckos, football(soccer!)and cricket, pub quiz, my neighbors' babies, cows in the street, monsoon rains, fresh papaya for breakfast, the call to prayer at dusk, the mountains, pol sambol, women in saris, school kids in white, delivery people for everything from yogurt to mops, rickety trains, colorful skirts, tuk tuks, and I guess just the feel of the place. It's all beautiful and exotic and rewarding at the end of a long day struggling to get things done and I will look back very warmly on this crazy island during the long cold winter at home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The process

So...I missed the Pickering fellows orientation, which shouldn't have been a big deal, but has actually made it really difficult to get information about what's going on. I asked if they could send me the information covered during the two day orientation and I got a page and a half. (It must have been a busy weekend ;) All that is just to excuse the fact that I know almost nothing about what's going on. I actually was surfing the web the other day for information about my fellowship. That's sad. So forgive me if my explanation turns out to be flat out wrong.

My timetable for pickering?
April 2010 -
I found out on the 6th that I was a finalist and that I would be flying to DC for an interview at the end of the month.
On the 24th I took a short essay test and had an interview with the panel, as did 39 other amazing candidates. I flew back to Colombo the next day.
I found out I was a fellow by the 27th. Less than a month!

May 2010 -
Mostly radio silence, with the exception of receiving my security clearance package late in the month with the understanding that I would fill it out and return it within about 10 days.

June 2010 -
I missed the orientation in DC, since fellows outside the US don't attend (I actually really appreciate that they didn't waste tax dollars on that flight - and that they didn't make me live through another Colombo-to-DC-to-Colombo weekend, as the first one just about killed me), submitted my security clearance, signed a contract, and now have just received my medical clearance information. I'm waiting til I get back to the States, as I'm too busy to deal with it now, and I'd rather go to a doctor at home anyway.

I know this is pretty different so far from the application process that most people go through. However, some things are the same. I still need both medical and security clearance, I still need to take and pass the FSOT and the FSOA, I still have to attend A-100. The biggest difference seems to be that instead of the QEP I had the Fellowship application and the interview/test in April, which I suppose served the same function of evaluating my background and experience. Oh, and the fact that it's all out of order this way. I'll probably have my security and medical clearance before I take the tests and I'll have a contract signed before anything else.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Me...and the Police

So this week I had the opportunity to meet not just one but two sets of Sri Lankan police officers. Well, I've met plenty of police here before, but usually at roadside checkpoints. This time I met them on their own turf.

My visit was necessitated by the security clearance that I've been working on. Among other things I needed to submit 72 pages (!) of information regarding everyone I know, everywhere I've been, and everything I've done. Ever. And I also needed to submit two sets of fingerprints. Oh, and I had 10ish days to track down all this info and get my prints done, in addition to working with my colleague here to interview and try out my replacement and do my regular duties as well. So it's been a pretty busy week.

The upside of course is that the government can feel much more secure hiring me now. (How much more secure? 72 pages more!) And I can relive the past 10 years in excruciating detail. And pretend to be a hardened criminal at the police station of course. :)