Monday, June 15, 2009


So I totally took state department's exam (the French call it the "ministry for strange affairs"), and I am happy to report that it could have been worse.

The rules of the embassy were pretty strict and involved bringing in no bags at all and unlike libraries here, they would not be providing us with lockers for our things, so I went to my trusty, rusty state library and locked up my things in their lockers. I got there at opening in order to manage a locker (competition for them is intense) and I spent the hours before the exam doing practice tests there and drinking their "coffee." Turns out this move was a pretty good one, if I say so myself, because the others had to leave their things at a kiosk and hope for the best.

There were four of us taking the exam, and of them I was the youngest by about 10 years, the only American native, and the only female (for all these reason therefore i was the cutest person in the room...small victories). We were forced to wait on the front of the American embassy for a rather long time, during which we were treated to a viewing of Steinmeier the foreign minister and presumable candidate for the social democratic party for the chancellorship skulking into a car, which was TOtALLY cool. Then we were lead into this room with as many computers as there were people and basically told "you cannot leave the room once this thing starts without taking time away from your allotted time slots, so go to the bathroom now...oh but you have to have security escort you." awkward.

The test itself was profoundly random. I won't go too far into detail, so these questions are only moderately patterned after real test questions, but I hypothetically was asked how to calculate a tangent, what the us mission in Somalia circa 1994 was, and then something about inflationary spirals, and then they would throw in personnel questions. These were pretty easy:

You are having problems with an employee. You...
A. Throw a pie in his face
B. Feed him to the sharks
C. Turn him in for tax fraud
D. Work with him for a mutual solution

For the harder questions, the majority, I was really glad I had studied, something the other guys had admitted to not doing at all before that day. I was feeling good.

Then came the English expression test, an hour of correcting stuff in essays but aggravatingly having to answer questions about the content too, so I had to read it. Grrrr. Since a lot of that was style-based, I do not know how well I did, but historically I am pretty good at that. I sound far too confident right now. I am well aware that I have a minuscule chance of moving on to the next round of tests, but I went in expecting total failure, and I definitely did better than that.

Then we had a surprisingly long section on ourselves, like an interview but in a test. "how would you characterize your father's parenting style?" "none of your business". I might have failed that one, because I refused to answer that I was 100% perfect on everything. It was a strategic decision to do that, so I hope it pays off. I never said I was the worst or "poor" on any part. We will see, but they do not really explain why you failed If you did. You just get a pass/fail.

Lastly was a 30 minute essay on one topic. This worried me because I had studied for a test in which you got to choose from different possibilities, but the topic turned out to be ANWR, Which I debated about in high school, so I had lots of facts, and I even got to quote this french book I just finished about sustainable development, which I spelled wrong on the test...crap. I do not know if it answered the question properly, or of it was in any way coherent (30 minutes for planning and writing is not a lot) but I had a good feeling. I maintained a structure and hoped for the best as I types hella fast.

And when it was done I went to the stabi, where we locked up our stuff (no bags allowed in the embassy...or electric stuff...or fun). I was totally fertig (done), having finally done this thing I had been planning for for a while. I can now just wait 3-5 weeks for the results. I think having my saint ignatius, lucky rubber duck, and some good vibes helped.

I was testing for 4+ hours and when I was done I went to dave and sandra's where me and a pack of Swiss and Italians had fondue, drank strong booze (mirabel) and played a game that me and this Italian guy never figured out the rules to; we kept making up rules, throwing down cards, and generally messing with everyone else's strategies...lots of "MERDE!" ensued. At one point I had to hold the baby, and she smiled at me, and burst out screaming...oops. I was sort of terrified and after asking her to stop yelling I passed her off to someone else, who calmed her with relative ease. I can be an expert in a lot of things, but others remain a mystery.

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