This is a bit of a catch-up post…
The Sabra is back, living in the same state, and indeed, the same house as yours truly. She received official word that she was laid off a few weeks ago, and after an unfortunate series of events, she finally accepted the severance package her office offered: 2 more paychecks, relocation money, and 10 days’ worth of COBRA while we waited for my insurance to pick her up. I flew up on July 2, and we drove back on the fifth, car loaded with all her worldly possessions.
Now that she is unemployed and almost without a status, we have submitted the paperwork for her Green Card…and what an experience that has been. It was actually easier than we thought to get all the papers together, and I got my bonus at work at just the right time—for it ain’t cheap to get permanent residence status. She also had to get a physical from a US Citizenship and Immigration Services recognized doctor. This physical included a TB test, which, due to her being immunized as a child, she promptly failed. So, she had to go to another place to get a chest x-ray to verify that she is TB free. But, since we live in the District, we had to take an extra step.
I took yesterday off thinking that I would get some well-deserved rest and get some things done around the apartment. Instead, I spent the better part of the morning at DC General Hospital at the TB clinic where the Sabra had to get clearance from the DC Department of Health. It was a bit creepy hanging out with so many consumptives in one room. I will definitely need to get a TB test at my next physical!
With clearance in hand, we returned to the CIS approved clinic and had all the paperwork finalized. We put the papers, applications, and checks (yes, there were 3 of them) in the mail this morning.
Now we wait for the next step in the process, which I believe is the interview…stay tuned!
So, I had my “Oral Assessment” today. I am bound by a non-disclosure statement that I signed, but I feel that I can talk about the things that they talk about on the website.
There were 9 of us altogether (“there were 9 of us”), and I think 3 passed. I failed handily. You needed a 5.4 to pass, and I got a 4.4. Actually, I didn’t pass any of the 3 parts.
One funny thing about the morning: I handed in my paperwork, and a few minutes later, the lady who was babysitting us looked up and said, “Mr. ____? Didn’t I just process a Mr. ____?” Well, it turned out that there were two of us with the same last name. He was a bit of a weasel, though. Fortunately, he was of Indian descent (so it was kind of funny that he had an Indian first name and an English last name—but I guess since England controlled India, it isn’t really that odd), so there was no chance of people thinking that we were related.
The first part was a group exercise where we had to present our project; then we had to come to consensus on which projects to fund. We were advised not to sit quietly, be engaged and engaging, ask questions, and talk. I did all of the above. I really felt good about my performance when I walked out of the group presentation. Sadly, as I mentioned, I failed that part.
Next we had the writing portion. For this we had to read copious amounts of words and write a 2 page report based on that information. I thought that I did OK, but I wasn’t confident about my report. I felt like I was leaving significant information out, and I wasn’t sure I actually addressed the questions they were asking. At this point I was pretty sure that I was not going to pass. And I was right, for I failed that portion as well.
We ate lunch together in the cafeteria and returned to the testing area. At this point, I had from 12 to 2 free. I hung out and chatted with the woman who kept an eye on the group. I asked her if the evaluators talked with her to see how we interacted in the waiting area. She said of course, and I agreed that it made sense. For instance, she didn’t like the guy with my last name. She thought that he as irritating and annoying.
Finally, I had the structured interview. At this point any shred of hope that I had remaining that I might be able to pass was completely gone. I just didn’t have any concrete examples of the experiences that they were looking for.
After the structured interview, we went back into the lobby and after a few more minutes, they called us back into the room where we took the written portion. They called us out one by one, and the folks who interviewed us in the structured interview portion, broke the news to us that we had failed. One of the two people who interviewed me said, “now that it’s over, I can tell you that my son is in a master’s program for design.” I thought that was funny.
All in all, I had a good time, and it was a very interesting experience. They told me at my exit interview that 19,000 people took the written exam and 3,000 people were invited back to the oral assessment. I thought that that was pretty cool that I made the cut.
So, will I do it again next year? At this moment, probably not, but I have a while before I need to decide. I had a great time, but I’m not sure I could go through all of that again.
I woke up Sunday and felt pretty good. I took a shower, ate breakfast, and cleaned and redressed my wounds. I decided that I was going to get the applications finished for my Oral Assessment for the State Department. I thought I might be wiser to use my dad’s computer as he has some software that I don’t. So, I headed up to Baltimore, and made it there in time to have breakfast with my parents. Then I started to fill out the forms, and to my pleasant surprise, the State Department was smart enough to create their PDF files so they are editable! Then my parents and I started thinking that it might be wise to wait until I hear about the job here at NASA. A Legislative Affairs Specialist sounds a lot better than Secretary. So, with nothing to do, I decided to go with them to the Prime Outlets in Hagerstown, a quaint city in western Maryland.
We really went because my dad was looking for shoes, but we had a great time. We meandered through a number of stores:
- Bass Outlet
- Clarks Bostonian
- Eddie Bauer Outlet
- Gap Outlet
- J. Crew
- Johnston & Murphy
- Kitchen Collection
- Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store
- Rockport Outlet Store
- Timberland Outlet Store
I got a pretzel at Auntie Anne's.
We came home and, while still on I-695 we called TGI Friday’s to get on their “call ahead” list (explain to me how this is different than reservations). My folks got low carb stuff and I got double glazed ribs and fries.
We got back to my parents’ apartment, and I wanted to show my dad my nose so he could see if the redness was anything to worry about. When I removed the Band-Aid over my nose, I noticed that there was a lot of blood on the Band-Aid, which was weird because there had been no blood on Saturday or Sunday morning. My dad also noticed some puss. So, naturally, I began to panic. I don’t mind an infection, I am just terrified that I will get a nasty scar.
I went home, cleaned both wounds, and went to bed.
Sorry I didn’t write over the weekend, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. I’m really still not, but it’s 9:30 in the morning, and I have finished all of my work for the day (well, I say that, but I think it’s probably more accurate to say that I don’t have anything on my desk at the moment, and I am just waiting for the next task to be delivered), so I need to do something to alleviate the boredom.
Anyway, about Friday:
I got up pretty early (around 7:30—my regular weekend wake-up time), and took a shower, shaved and generally stared in the mirror a whole lot looking at my soon-to-be-different nose. I kept touching my moles, willing my fingers and brain to remember the feel, contour, texture of my moles and face. I watched TV and ate a very light breakfast, all the while my fingers continued to migrate toward my nose and cheek. I cleaned and vacuumed the apartment and washed the dishes. I didn’t want to come home to a dirty home (although, I somehow forgot or ran out of time to do the bathroom—I can’t imagine how that happened). Around 11ish, my parents called and said that they were on their way (my mom insisted that she and my dad be there, which was fine by me). They arrived shortly before noon, and we sat and talked for a bit; my dad flipped channels on the TV. My mom was nice enough to fold my clothes. At last the time had come for us to head over to the doctor’s office. I ran to the bathroom to look one last time at the two moles that had invited themselves to my face 17 years ago and never left. As much as I was prepared to have them removed, I was still going to miss them.
It was a rainy, overcast, and generally dreary day…poetic, I thought. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, we were the only ones there. It was only a matter of minutes before his secretary, a woman who desperately needed to be on the receiving end of a weed-whacker (to remove the copious amounts of hair), asked me to sign the waivers that relinquish the doctor from major liability. I filled out my forms. My dad thumbed through People. My mom thought out loud about getting liposuction.
Soon after signing my life away, the nurse called me to go back to the examination room. I was pretty nervous. I can’t really explain why I was so nervous. I have had these sorts of procedures performed on me before. The very last time, for some absurd reason, I convinced myself that the Novocain would wear off and I would feel everything. I got a little queasy then, and I guess I was afraid that the same thing would happen this time. Needless to say, it didn’t happen either time. When the doctor arrived, I made a comment about being nervous, and he replied, “Why? Have you heard of my reputation as the butcher?” He continued to make these dumb, yet reassuring comments. So far, I give him an A+ for bedside manner. He definitely did his best to put me at ease, and I appreciated that.
Now comes the gory part.
He asked me if I wanted to begin with the most painful part or the second most painful part. Before I could decide (I was leaning toward the most painful), he suggested that I go with the lesser so as to be better prepared for the other. I was not prepared for either. He warned me that I was going to feel a stick. I felt a stick as the needle penetrated what I can only guess (I had my eyes closed since I sat in the chair) was the area between my nose and my cheek (where the pads of glasses rest). Then he said, “Now your going to feel some burn.” It was like no pain I had ever felt before. It wasn’t some burn, it was like a major burn. I wanted to kick my legs, but I tried to be tough. My right eye started tearing badly. Finally he told me it was over and here we go on the worst part. I asked him to give me a moment. We both waited patiently until my eye stopped tearing, and after a second, I took a deep breath and said, “OK.” He again said, “Small stick” and that’s all I heard. If I thought the other shot was bad, this was the mother of all shots. It felt as if he had gone in at the bridge and pushed a red-hot poker straight down to the very tip of my nose. I wanted to scream; I wanted to kick; I wanted to run. I grit my teeth and felt the tears run down the sides of my face. Then it was over and the pain lingered about a second or two longer.
The rest of the procedure went just fine. I can’t really tell you much because I was in my happy place and ignoring everything else. I can tell you that after the Novocain, the next worst part was the sutures. I couldn’t feel anything, but I could hear the thread as it scraped through the skin. Then, in order to minimize scarring as much as possible, he had to pull the sutures tight before cutting them. I could feel the skin pulling as he pulled taught on the sutures.
Then it was over, and my parents and I went home. I told my dad that I wanted a lollipop, but he wouldn’t give me one. We went over to CVS and got cotton balls (which we returned because my dad read the instructions that the doctor gave me and it said to use Q-Tips instead), Band-Aids, Hydrogen Peroxide, Tylenol, and Neosporin.
We went back to my apartment, watched some more TV, and then we headed to dinner. We dined at the Outback Steakhouse I got a rib-eye. It was very, very good.
Even though it was minor surgery, and I only had 2 moles removed, it was still a trauma to my body, and I was beat, so I went to bed and slept almost 12 hours.
As I was falling asleep I wondered if I will feel phantom pains in my amputated moles.
Once a month we get this rather silly newsletter at work called Work/Life Navigator. It's supposed to help make NASA a more fun place to work. Anyway, every once in a while they actually have something decent or clever. This month, they had the following quiz. It is labeled “WORLD’S EASIEST QUIZ.”
Don’t cheat, and if you feel like posting your score, go for it!
1. How long did the Hundred Years War last?
2. Which country makes Panama hats?
3. From which animal do we get cat gut?
4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
5. What is a camel-hair brush made of?
6. The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
7. What was King George VI’s first name?
8. What color is a purple finch?
9. What country do Chinese gooseberries come from?
10. What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?
For the answers, Read more »
Hmmm, where to begin. I guess if I’m going to talk about the weekend, the best place to start is on Friday.
I was supposed to go out to dinner with the True Renaissance Woman. Howe’er, she didst call nigh to the hour of our meeting, and forsooth did profess that our liaison was not meant to be. In troth, she did own that she regrettèd mine inconvenience, and beseeched upon my good graces to dine with her anon.
I was a little annoyed, but Friday was a beautiful day, and it had been a long week, so I walked to Union Station with the Walking Chick, and then headed down to Dupont. It was such a perfect evening that I didn’t want to go inside to eat, so I sat in the circle and caught up on crossword puzzles from old issues of the Express. When I finished all three of them, I pulled out Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America, a book the State Department sent me the other day (for a more detailed reason why the United States Department of State would send me a book, see My exciting news). After only a few pages, I got bored, so I pulled out my new book and started to read that, but I was a little self-conscious reading it in Dupont Circle. It’s actually a great book: Caroline Daley’s Leisure & Pleasure: Reshaping & Revealing the New Zealand Body 1900–1960. It’s a very fascinating and intriguing book into the perception of the body in fin de siècle New Zealand. Unfortunately, there is a rather provocative picture of a well-built, attractive, semi-nude male on the cover. So, being a good-looking, single man sitting in Dupont Circle reading a book about the body, I was a little concerned that I might get propositioned. Needless to say, that did not really happen.
Finally, it started to get dark, and my tummy was growling at me like a ravenous lion might growl at a young, slow moving member of a herd. I looked around the circle and picked my direction…that way. So, up I went to my favorite of favorite restaurants: Chipotle. I had a Fajita Burrito Bowl without beans and extra guacamole. It was soooooo good.
I was full and fully sated. But, I wasn’t ready to go home, so I decided to walk around the area. I went pretty far, but stayed on Q St. Eventually, I wasn’t sure where I was anymore, so I turned around and headed back to the Metro, and went home. I stayed up until 3 am playing on the computer.
I once heard a comedian ask "why do doctors leave the room so you can undress? They’re just going to see you naked anyway." Well, I never really thought about this, not having been to the doctor in ages. But, I went today, and sure enough, he left the room for me to get undressed. Then, to make it all the more weird, he knocks before he enters. What exactly does he think I’m doing in his examination room that he needs to knock before entering? And, for argument’s sake let’s say I was doing something, should I say "just a second" or "come back in a minute" when he does knock?
Are doctors taught the fine art of conversation in medical school (now this isn’t as odd of a question as it may sound. There are actually some cities that send their taxi drivers to such classes)? Think about this for a second. How many times have you been to the dentist, and once he has that gunk they call paste on your teeth, and is sanding away, he asks all kinds of questions. It’s never "nice day, isn’t it?" or "did you have a hard time finding the office?" or even "do you like my new tie?" No, why ask a simple yes or no question that can be answered with an affirmative or negative grunt? No it’s always "So, tell me about school" or "what are you majoring in" or even "what do you think about [insert sports team here]?" What is he thinking? I’ve got electrical equipment in my mouth (am I grounded on those chairs?) and he has my jaw open as wide as it can go, and he expects a dissertation on my views of [insert sports team here]?
Well, today the same sort of thing happened. I’m lying on the examination table, with my tighty-whiteys below my knees, and the doctor is examining my genitals (I assume for VD and testicular cancer), and he says "So, what’s it like working at NASA?" As I write this, the irony that escaped me then has now sunk in. Working at NASA is very similar to having your scrotum in someone else’s hands. Before I could give too much information, he is telling me to roll on my side.
Yes, the infamous prod is about to occur. Now, let’s face it folks, Jo Cose ain’t getting’ any younger, and everyone comes to a certain point in their lives where they need to have parts of the body examined that you never even knew existed a few short years ago. So, it’s OK. While having a latex covered, K-Y coated finger stuck up my rear isn’t exactly the most pleasant experience, it’s a necessary inconvenience, and I would rather that than prostate cancer! But, if you are going to stick your finger in my ass and fondle my prostate, please keep the conversation to a minimum. The last thing I really want to hear about at that moment is, well, nothing really. Didn’t the Dice-man have a routine like this? He says that at moments like that the doctor should at least talk dirty to him and make him enjoy it.
But, no, my doctor doesn’t talk dirty to me. In fact, he is still driveling on about something that I can’t focus on because I hear the sound of the gloves snapping and K-Y squirting. In mid sentence he shifts gears and says, "Well, your prostate feels fine, seems normal." Again I find myself at a loss. Do I say, "Thank goodness, that’s a relief" or "Sounds good to me" or even "Glad to hear it, Doc." What I really want to say is "Couldn’t that comment wait until your finger was out of my ass?"
So, now we have come full circle. While the doctor needed to depart the room before I could disrobe, he doesn’t leave at an even more awkward moment. Instead, he pulls off his rubber gloves, tosses them in the bio-hazard bin, and hands me a box of Kleenex. Now, what the hell is this? He’s too modest to watch me undress, but I should wipe the K-Y out of my butt while he’s standing there washing his hands? Why doesn’t he leave for that and watch me undress?
So, all in all, it was a worthwhile experience. Other than his probing finger, I like and trust my doctor. He has given me a clean bill of health, and I feel pretty good about that!
Oh, and I have a fine and normal prostate…who could ask for more?
OK, so two bits of exciting news in my otherwise boring life:
I just found out yesterday that I passed the Foreign Service Written Examination. According to Monster.com: "In the fall of 2001, almost 24,000 people registered for the written exam, and approximately 13,000 took it." According to the State Department "about one third of takers have been asked to continue on to the next phase, the oral assessment." So, sometime between September 15, 2004 and May 2005, I will go on for the Oral Assessment!
The other bit of good news is that it seems that they really are working hard at getting me a more professional job here, but unfortunately, it won't kick in until October with the new Fiscal (that's pronounced "physical," BTW) Year...but I'm patient.