Expedition Киргизия

I guess I disappeared from the blog. You see, I got a little distracted by a new job and all the details that go along with moving.

Two weeks ago, I finished the Department of State three-week specialist orientation and was sworn in as a human resources officer (HRO). My parents made the trek to DC to attend my Swearing In ceremony. I took the same oath of office as Thomas Jefferson when he was sworn in as the first Secretary of State in 1790.

During orientation, I sat among an amazingly diverse group of 91 classmates all from different backgrounds -- many former Peace Corp volunteers, former CEOs, a naval pilot, a couple of UF graduates, a former JAG lawyer, a former African ambassador's daughter, engineers, retired military service members, and even someone who directed an anti-human trafficking program. I was not only inspired by my classmates, but I was also inspired by the many people who spoke to us during the three-week period. We had two fearless leaders who kept things moving and also interesting with their own Foreign Service stories, and among our speakers, we had a couple of ambassadors, some local embassy personnel, other specialists, generalists, a deputy assistant secretary, and civil service staff who spoke to us as well. Each person, regardless of their rank or experience, had one big thing in common: they love their careers. They were personable and eager to share their own experiences and give us tips for survival as we move forward.

Here's the flag I was given on flag day:


The ambassador who presented me with my flag said, "Поздравляю." I was a little confused by what she said. She could tell I was puzzled, so she smiled and whispered, "It means 'Congratulations!' in Russian." I have a lot (of Russian) to learn.

I'm headed to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which is in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 when it became an independent nation. Russian is the primary language in Kyrgyzstan, so I'll be in Russian language training until I head to post in March 2013. My HRO colleagues (and forever friends) are all leaving in September 2012 for different places in the world: Cameroon, Tajikistan, China (Beijing) and Afghanistan. I'll be the last one in my group to head out.

I'm excited and feel that Bishkek is a great fit for me. I've done a lot of research and talked to many folks who have been posted to Bishkek. It's nicknamed the Switzerland of Central Asia, as it's mountainous. There is snow on the ground at least three months of the year. Of course the Floridian would get the coldest place! The hiking is supposed to be great, and apparently I'll be spending a lot of time riding horses. I'll even get to fulfill life goal #23 -- Sleep in a Yurt (the x shape on the flag actually represents the yurt). I was told by someone that everything in Kyrgyzstan is organic because no one can afford fertilizer. I'll be able to travel along the Silk Road, to Moscow, to Turkey, and to visit my HRO colleague and friend in neighboring Tajikistan.

Sadly, I'll be trading in Martin, my Mini Cooper, for a small SUV with four-wheel drive, as the roads aren't suitable for a Mini. While I'll be sad to see Martin go, Hannah will have more room in the backseat on our road trips. I am in the market for heated seats. 

Over the next year, not only will I be learning Russian, but I'm going to enjoy all that Washington, DC has to offer -- food and sights and culture included.