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Saturday, June 22, 2013



After three extensions (one due to knee surgery) and one failed exam, I finally, FINALLY, managed to do well enough on the end-of-term Mandarin Chinese exam to pass the course, get off of language probation and start preparing for the move to Shanghai 上海. More than two hours after getting the results, I'm still in a daze, and not just because I have flu-like symptoms and have been feeling pretty damn uncomfortable since yesterday evening. I'm finding it hard to come to grips with the passing score I was given, considering that I felt I did much worse this time compared to the exam I took a month ago. I can think of four possible explanations:

1.) In my delirium, I didn't realize just how amazingly fluent I've become in the Chinese language;

2.) My score this time illustrates just how subjective the whole testing process at the Foreign Service Institute really is;

3.) Word came down from the top to pass me and get me the hell out of FSI as quickly as possible, no matter how much I butcher Mandarin;

or 4.) The testers made a mistake, and it turns out I actually failed (this wouldn't the first time this happened to me; however, I will say no more about THAT...). I'm leaning toward this explanation, which is why, during the post-test feedback session when I was asked if I had any questions, I quickly replied "No", and got out of there and to the Chinese section as soon as possible, both to report the results and to get myself signed out of the program before someone changed their mind.

Now that I'm done with language training (fingers crossed), I can finally recover from 学中文-induced burnout, and get on the process of packing up our things and having them all ready for when the movers get here next week. The plan calls for a couple of days in San Francisco, where I'll have consultations with the Department of Homeland Security, followed by a few days visiting family in the other, nicer Washington. Then, following a night's layover at Narita 成田 in Japan (Yay!), we should arrive in Shanghai just after the Fourth of July holiday (in the U.S., of course), where I should be fresh, eager and ready to get to work the following Monday after resting up over the weekend.

That's the plan. Now that I've laid it all out for the world to see, no doubt some unforeseen disaster is waiting in the wings, biding for the right time to make its presence known.

All this calls for a celebration, but I feel like  大条 right now, so I'll try to go to bed again this evening. Hopefully, if I feel better tomorrow morning, I can do one last hike before the serious job of getting ready for the movers begins. Shanghai, apparently, is pretty flat and the walking options are limited. Oh, the sacrifices one must make in the service of their country...

In lieu of a celebratory feast, I offer you this apropos oldie:


  1. A hearty congratulations from the folks in Cameron Park! Don't ask any questions, just keep walking all the way to Shanghai :)
    When I took my GRE's the graduate program I needed the test for didn't require any score on the math and science sections so I left them blank. When I got my results back, they had made a mistake and graded me 100% in both math and science. In the great scheme of things sometimes you catch a break. Then again, you may be just that good! Kicking A** and taking names all the way to China :)

    1. I still don't know what I did right this time compared to last. I was already feeling the onset of the flu when the test started, and during the exam I was muttering to myself in English, telling the examiners I didn't think I was doing very well (supposedly a big no-no, as you're supposed to demonstrate self-confidence) and, at one point, getting antagonistic with one of the testers. Who knows? Maybe the key to success is being a jerk. No one wants to keep an asshole around any longer than is necessary.

  2. Jim, i never had any doubts. congratulations! let me offer yet another possibility:

    5. the craft beers that i drink finally unlocked the neurons in my brain and i was able to comprehend Chinese much better.

    (i base this on the fact that, when i go down to the local watering hole and am forced to speak Chinese while drinking, my Chinese significantly improves.)

    can't wait to get regular articles on how life is treating you in China! ja-yo!

    1. Thanks! My language ability also improves with the quality of beer drunk, but I haven't drunk much lately through a combination of wanting to maintain my focus before the exam, and afterward coming down with a nasty case of the flu.

      If the VPN works while we're in China, I should be uploading quite often.