Sunday, November 22, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Flag Day finally came this past Monday, Aug. 31st, and my fate was determined. I must say, it was extremely nerve wrecking ceremony, as each country's flag was presented and the name of the person headed there was mentioned. I listened intently as Uruguay, Honduras, Brazil, and other posts I had bid on went to other classmates. I nervously awaited as Mexican posts started floating by - one by one - and my name still had not been called. My good friends were each called: Izaak is headed to Bangkok,Thailand, Rob is headed to Maseru, Lesotho (Africa), and Darin is headed to Mumbai, India.
Finally there were two flags left for Mexico among the other Chinese posts and Slavik countries. While I knew it was a possibility that I could technically get China, I knew deep down, I was destined to head to a Mexican post. Unfortunately, I did not get Guadalajara, which I had hoped so much for, but instead as the second to last Mexican flag was called, I heard my name - Mexico: TIJUANA - Corey Bordenkecher. It was finally over, I released a big sigh of relief, as I could have easily been heading to Ciudad Juarez. Instead, my time in Tijuana will take me to one of the busiest American Citizens Services units in the world, as well as a huge non-immigrant visa unit. I cannot tell you just how excited I am, although many of the friends and family just don't believe me.
By the way, notice the spelling of Tijuana. This is commonly mispronounced as "Tiajuana = Tea/ah/wanna"...it is actually "Tijuana = Tea/wanna"
So what is American Citizens Services, you ask...and why is Tijuana one of the worlds largest? Well as soon as you understand one, you'll understand the other. American Citizens Services is virtually all services offered to American Citizens. This includes, jail visits, deaths, births, lost passports, etc. Now if you know anything about Tijuana, you will understands why there are so many Americans that find themselves needing consular services. Let's just say...a lot of alcohol, underage drinking (well technically in Mexico where the drinking age is 18, it is not underage), and a crazy night life. At the end of the day, the consular unit does a lot of jail visits. Furthermore, I found out that there are more than 300,000 Americans that actually live in Tijuana. This does make sense however considering that Tijuana is virtually 30-45 minutes south of San Diego, California. In fact, there are many citizens who work in San Diego but live in Tijuana becuase it is much cheaper and the dollar does go a little bit farther.
It isn't without saying that Tijuana does have it's down sides as well. It is not all glamorous, but at the end of the day, I am extremely excited to be going there. I will be close to the beach, close to San Diego, and not too far from Cabo San Lucas...so come on...who can complain? Also, one of my classmates will be joining as well after her training ends in mid 2010, so I will already know one person really well. She is originally from Los Angeles and has already told me that I will have to come to LA for Christmas since I will be so far away without family, etc....I just may have to take her up on that (I have never been to LA). Furthermore, with being so close to San Diego, flights home will be easy to come by, and easy for friends to come out and visit. Yes, you better come visit. ;-)
I will officially wrap up all of my training on Dec. 15th and it will then come down to if post wants me to come out just before Christmas or wait until after the New Year. I did find out that I will have to drive there from DC, since I will be bringing my vehicle. That is a little bit of a bummer, but at least I will have my vehicle with me as soon as I arrive, and of course, I get to take a little more baggage with me instead of having to pack a limited amoung and wait for it to arrive via air.
So that's it amigos. I have included some links here to check out some more info on Tijuana and I look forward to keeping you updated as time progresses through training and my adventures in Tijuana.
1) Short Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmxQXlTGxlE
2) US Consulate in Tijuana: http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/
3) Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tijuana
4) Tourism: http://www.seetijuana.com/
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
This past week seemed to fly by, and there was never a dull moment. With so much going on, I thought I might list the days individually, rather than just formatting into one long post. I apologize for not getting this up sooner, SORRY SUNNE..;-)
As this week's title eluded to, class was taken outside of our normal confines to an offsite location for a leadership development retreat in Hedgesville, West Virginia, approximately 2.5 hours from Falls Church. The Woods Resort was an excellent opportunity to get out in nature and break away from the same ol' sterile classroom. There were many goals including leadership development, bonding, learning to work in teams, and of course a chanced to "catch our breath." Upon arrival we were broken up into several teams and worked on exercises that were physically and mentally demanding, many of which initially seemed impossible. The exercises tested us all, and at the end, they all led to a greater exercise that involved all 95 students to work together to ultimately defuse a "bomb". I don't want to give away any more, since there are some incoming folks who are peeking at this blog as well. I can say, it was a good time.
Monday night is also the opportunity for the students to have a little fun with a presentation of the "follies"...or skits that poke fun at things that have happened while in class or a presentation of talents. Our class has such various backgrounds, which provided great material to work with. Just to give you an idea the first week of class we had to introduce ourselves and discuss an interesting fact...our class includes a relative of OJ Simpson, a decendent of the Donner Party, relative of gold medal basketball olympian, the winner of a national dance contest, and someone who was on Prince William's water polo team, just to name a few. All students were assigned to committees during the first week of A100 (my diplomatic training course). I was assigned to the follies committee, so I had to come up with some material or skit for Monday night at the Woods. I decided to do a skit with Matt Foley...the motivational speaker from Saturday Night Live. I guess I really took the show, as everyone came up afterwards and were just raving about the performance. I have to admit, I was extremely nervous at first, but I quickly got over it and had many in tears by the end of the show. It was a blast. There was a DVD made that we are supposed to be getting that has my skit on it, so it will be available for later viewing. ;-)
As I have previously mentioned, the class has committees, one of which is in charge of setting up after-hour events. This Saturday, I signed up to go on a white water rafting trip. Yep, you heard me correctly. Now don't get me wrong, Indiana has some water...and I have been kayaking/canoeing, but this was a little different. The group set out for Harpers Ferry, which is located in West Virginia to raft down the Shenandoah, which then meets up with teh Potomac River. The river was not too crazy (class 1-3 rapids), but it was a great way for me to "warm up" to the experience. I have to say, it was a blast! Our group was approximately 24 people, so we occupied four rafts with six people in them, and a guide. It rained/misted most of the day, but it didnt keep our spirits down. We had a great time with water fights and surfing rapids with the rafts...yeah you heard me...my guide just happened to be an over-zealous river junkie who thought he had something to prove. Needless to say, we didn't flip, but came close several times.
In all, it was a great week with a lot going on. I even had the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and try some authentic Vietnamese Food. The Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain had even eaten at the same restaurant late last year and raved about it, so I thought, I have to give it a try. I went as far as even tasting the JellyFish Salad. Hmm...can't say I was a big fan, but the other food was pretty fantastic. I also ventured out with friend to a moroccan restaurant called Casablanca. It was awesome. We were served in traditional moroccan style, watching belling dancing while sitting on padded benches with pillows. It was really neat, and the food was great too (lamb with honey and almonds, chicken with lemon and olives, chicken kabobs, and kofta kabobs). **PHOTOS TO COME.
I am couting down as I have less than a week before I find out where I will be going. I send my best to everyone back home and look forward to keeping up to date with what is going on back home.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
As another week falls to the wayside, I can only look forward with enthusiasm. With what seemed impossible (learn everything you can about being an American diplomat in just five weeks), it actually seems feasible. It doesn't go without saying the days are long and the nights, a bit sleepless, but the plan is coming together.
Ok, we are certainly not going to learn "everything" about being a U.S. Diplomat, but we are making great headway. This past week had us learning everything from writing official cables ("reports" in layman's terms), working with the local staff, to learning about the history of diplomacy. Thoughts of my highschool history class and Ms. Mitchell lecturing on neoliberal democracy dance in my head.
Most importantly this past week, we submitted our official bid lists. For those of you I have not chatted with, this is basically all of the "posts" (Consulates/Embassies/Missions) that are available for our class to bid on going to. There were many great posts to chose from, as I had noted previously. We had a lot of time to chat with our CDOs (Career Development Officers) to get a good feel on what might fit best with our career goals, language skills, and general knowledge. Of course, I bidded all Spanish-speaking posts high, as well as Portuguese-speaking posts, as this is probably the next language I look to learn. The posts I bidded high included: Mexico (Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Hermosillo, Guadalajara, Mexico City), Honduras, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Brazil (Sao Paulo, Recife, and Brasilia). There were some others here and there in Africa and Canada that were English-speaking posts that I bidded, but these were the main posts of note. Nevertheless, the most important thing to remember, is that I am world-wide available, and so I could get just about anywhere. Keep those fingers crossed, and I will make sure to let everyone know on Aug. 31st what I get. Wherever it is, it will be extremely exciting. And, as we have been reminded, this first tour is only two years long and by the time we are there and getting settled in, it will be time to start bidding all over again for our next tour.
Furthermore, the agenda is kept busy with after-hours events. The MAP committee (in charge of after-hour inclusion events) has done a great job to scout out concerts, shows, as well as organize upcoming outtings such as white water rafting, schooner trips on the Patomac River, and cavern tours. And for those of you wondering, yes, I am going white water rafting! I hope to have some great pictures from that. Today we had an awesome barbeque with much of the class attending (roughly 70 out of the 95) with their families. We had everything from burgers and brauts to couscous and fresh mozzerella. Betty Crocker and I decided to grace the event with some brownies with cream cheese icing. It was a great event and opportunity to get to meet some of the families.
Final preparations are being made for "flag day"on August 31st when we will get our assignments and "swearing-in day" on September 4th, when we will be sworn in as diplomats in front of our familes. The latter is mostly pomp and circumstance since we have already officially been sworn in, but this is a great items for the families to come and take part in. We are hoping Secretary Clinton will be able to be present and swear out class in, but as usual, it all depends...mainly on her schedule. Right now is the busy portion of the year since most of the U.S. diplomats around the world are taking advantage of summer rotations (moving from one post to their next). It looks like mom and dad are planning on coming to D.C. for the swearing in ceremony, which should be great since they have never been here before. I plan on taking full advantage of those few days to take them to do some touring. I would really like to stop by Senator Bayh's or Senator Lugar's office and get pictures with them, but we will see.
Well, as this week's cable comes to an end, I send my best wishes to everyone back in Hoosier-land. I have received many emails from you all, and I wish I could take advantage of the many items going on back home. Make sure to grill one up for me, and set it aside for my return.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Time just seemed to fly this last week, and now there are only four left. As I wrapped up my first week of officially being a U.S. Diplomat, I cannot describe the immense pride and honor I feel to carry this title. Our class, the 147th, had the opportunity to hear from some many important folks, most who have been doing this a long time, including previous Ambassadors. It is so exciting to see what my career may develop into. We learned about the organization of missions abroad, were introduced to our class mentor, and received our bid list. I am so excited as there are several posts that I was hoping to have the opportunity to bid on, including: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Honduras, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, among others. There was also Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana...which for some reason I feel will be moved to the top of my list due to language ability...but even if I do get one of those two, it would not be bad. We have to have these lists turned in by next Friday, and then we find out where we will be going around Aug. 31st, so keep your fingers crossed.
Although the time is flying, and I am learning so much, it does not diminish the fact that I still miss my friends and family that I have left back in Indiana. I am trying to keep everyone in mind and updated as to happenings with me via this blog. Many people from the Fire Department have sent me emails, updating me as to the many runs that I have missed out on. I often sit here in the house and hear all of the sirens in the middle of the night and think back to getting up at 2am for those car accidents. Oddly enough, I do miss that.
I am really getting to make my way around Virigina. I live in an area known as Falls Church, VA. It was settled in 1699, and is quite the quaint old style town with all the new perks. Most of the apartments in the area run approximately $1500/month for a one-bedroom. It certainly is not cheap and gives you an idea of the area.
I write this blog as I take some time to relax and get caught up on some stuff. I have basically spent this weekend doing some grocery shopping, purchased a new printer, shredder, and some other basic items. I think I am taking tomorrow to just relax. I feel bad, as many of my classmates have organized outtings, games, and social hours, but I just have just not felt like going at this point, with so much to "settle in". I look forward to take more advantage of these as I move on.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Cable #2 - Falls Church, VA
Today we had our inprocessing day (it was technically our first day) where I got my official badge, had a security briefing regarding policies and procedure, HR info, credentials, etc., and filled out more and more forms. The most memorable part of today was officially being sworn in and taking the oath of allegiance. As of approximately 8:30am EST, I officially became a U.S. Diplomat. Tomorrow is my first day at the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) where I will begin to learn the nuts and bolts of diplomacy.
Well that is it for now, and I am going to hit the hay, as I have another early day. You know, those private sector jobs and getting up at 9am...well that is no more. Welcome to 6:00am! Uncle Sam truly believes in the early bird catches the worm, although I still don't think the birds are up when I am.