Area Studies is over! Yay! In the end, I actually did learn something, but boy did I fight it. The combination of doom and gloom, long lectures, and knowledge assumptions made it very difficult for me to learn. I think the people who got the most from this class already had most of the knowledge. A few of us thought there should have been an “Intro to the Intro” course. I survived, but not without a few mental scars.
I discovered something very interesting in this class though. This was my first time being in an interagency setting. We had folks from all over the alphabet soup of agencies ranging from DOD to DOA and lots more in between. Oddly enough, one of the DOD guys commented that State folks always call our coworkers colleagues. I didn’t realize that was a thing, but I say it all the time and hear it around every corner now. DOD always asked straight forward questions, while State would circle around a question and then finally just give a statement, instead of asking something. And most of us have only been at State for 8 weeks! Talk about really great indoctrination. So, let me preface the next part of this story with my own background. I’m half German and I grew up with Air Force parents. Time management is my thing. I dealt with it in Ghana, because that’s the culture. But here in the U.S. I expect things to be efficient and operate on a schedule. And when they don’t I fall back into my very German ways and get indignant.
For the past two weeks, our sessions have been going long and cutting into breaks or lunch. Today, our last day of class we found out that our lunch would be cut short by 15 minutes. Okay, fine, expectations managed. But don’t try cutting it down any further, mmmkay? This girl needs a mental break to process the information firehose. So before lunch we had 6 rounds of class debate about controversial topics in our region, which let me say coming up with the topics was not much of a struggle for the Near/Middle East. After the second formal debate, we got into the weeds pretty deep with a specific topic. A topic that we could talk about until we are blue in the face, but nothing we say or do is going to change the current situation. 30 minutes have been devoted to this topic out of a one hour session, and four groups still need to present and debate. My German side starts getting time anxiety. So I speak up and suggest we move on to the next topic since we are running short of time. And then something funny happened. Half my colleagues at State look at me like a traitor and everyone from DOD starts clapping for me. In my mind, I can see someone writing my yearly review and remarking ” needs improvement on undoing time management skills.” I remarked to one of my State colleagues that I’m looking forward to being a control officer (the person that herds VIPs when they come to post) and they just said “you’re going to get fired.” I just looked dumbfounded. But, but…I thought schedules were coveted! It was interesting to see the dynamic between the agencies play out and our own stereotypes rise to the surface. DOD loves their time and schedules, but State seems more willing to just talk about it. State needs to find the right words, with the least amount of negative connotations that will be politically correct and still get our point across. Some of the other agencies, were about direct communication or speaking in vague hypotheticals. We talked a lot about turf and equity in the interagency process during A-100, but we didn’t really touch on personalities. It was so fun to see them all come out during this class.
So my discovery? I need to be the GSO in Germany, that motor pool would run so efficiently, time would even tip its hat. Today’s incident made a few things clear to me:
1. My biggest pet peeve is beating a dead horse.
2. I love concise, except when it comes to writing blogs.
3. I’m going to be great at the interagency!