Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Final Push Before the Language Test

In two weeks, I'll take my language assessment test in Indonesian completing my 5 months of language training.  This will be critical to pass in order for obtaining the necessary language ability for my assignment, but also for fulfilling a critical requirement in order to become tenure-eligible.  All FSO's must obtain proficiency in a foreign language.  I tested previously in Chinese but didn't quite hit the score needed, I received a 1+ and I needed a score of 2 (the scale is 1 to 5).  For Indonesian, I will only need to obtain a 2/2.

The language test consists of two components:  Speaking and Reading.  These two components are then composed of several subcomponents.

  • Conversation
    • The test begins where you are to have a natural conversation with the testers.  You can ultimately talk about any subject and control the conversation to whatever you want.  The main point is to just keep the conversation going and to show your proficiency being able to naturally converse.
  • Presentation/Speaking at Length
    • In this section, you are able to select from several topics that are within the general categories such as Science&Techonology, Business&Economy, Administration&Government, Current Affairs, Culture, etc.  You then need to give basically a presentation on this topic showing knowledge and ability to use the pertinent vocabulary as well include factual information and personal opinions/observations.
  • Interview/Comprehension
    • In this section, you will be allowed to select a topic from one of the categories previously mentioned and will need to interview one of the testers on that topic.  Throughout the interview, you will need to report the information you find to the other tester.
  • Reading - Gist
    • You get several articles (I believe 6) with just the headline and several paragraphs from each article.  You have to quickly skim them all and at the end of the time limit, then report to the testers what each one was about.
  • Reading - In-Depth
    • You get a long article and you have to read the article.  At the end of the time limit, you then explain what the article was about and the testers will ask follow-up detailed questions about the content.
Outside of this, I'm preoccupied elsewhere for preparing for my first TDY assignment, writing my employee statement and package for my annual evaluation, and planning my wedding.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Understanding Foreign Assistance Part 1: Why does the US participate?

    Foreign assistance from the US is part of the foreign policy strategy.  The foreign policy strategy is derived at a high-level from a document called the National Security Strategy.  And from this, we have 3 key documents on foreign assistance in US.  All of these are developed jointly with the Department of State. 

    The State/USAID Strategic Plan is formulated every 5 years.
    The QDDR is a 2010 review of State Department and USAID operations and review for priority improvements for the future.

    The CBJ for Foreign Operations is the proposed budget for State and USAID.

    USAID's Goals for foreign assistance are then:
    1. Transformation Development
      • USAID works to support far-reaching institutional changes of governance, health and human services, education, and economic growth.  All striving to build capacity to sustain progress.
    2. Strengthening Fragile States
      • Poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can weaken states.  Failed states can lead to the prevalence of terrorism or drug trafficking ultimately impacting the security of the United States.
    3. Supporting US Geostrategic Goals
      • Foreign Assistance is a leveraging instrument with US partners, but more than that, it's a method to help move partners to becoming more stable, prosperous, and democratic societies.  This can result in new allies and new trade partners as well.
    4. Addressing Transnational Problems
      • There are many global issues that can only be managed through collective efforts.  For these issues, no single country could bring the resources and clout necessary to adequately address them.  USAID thus seeks partnerships and cooperation on such issues like infectious diseases, international trade, criminal activities, and trafficking in persons.
    5. Providing Humanitarian Relief
      • Foreign assistance is a way to show the generosity and compassion of the American people.  It is a way for the US to assist in crises around the world such recent events such as the Japanese Earthquake, the Bangkok floods, or the drought in East Africa.
    From the above, foreign assistance is a powerful tool in US foreign policy to fulfill numerous objectives of US strategic interest.  Working for USAID, it is important to understand the picture on the how/why the organization does what it does.  It is also good to know that by doing the job well, helping other people around the world achieve health, prosperity, and freedom, we are meeting the foreign policy objectives.
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