This week marks the one-year anniversary since D joined the Foreign Service, effectively flipping our comfortable Chicago existence upside down. The last year has brought with it many enriching, unanticipated, and life-altering changes. We got married, packed our lives up not once but twice, and moved halfway across the world to start new careers, to name a few. Now that we’re finally feeling settled again after nine and a half months in Kenya, we are discovering that change is likely to be the one constant facet of our new lifestyle.
For starters, D is on a rotational assignment. This means that over the course of the next 3-4 weeks he will pass on all the institutional knowledge he has acquired to his successor and start a new job within a different section of the Embassy. Soon after D completes his transition, the summer transfer season will begin in earnest, as two-thirds of the people posted to Nairobi will leave for onward assignments over the next several months. Nairobi has been a two-year post for the State Department since the 1998 bombings (other agencies, such as CDC, have longer assignments). A handful of people extend and stay for four years, but mostly this means that even when one develops a measure of continuity in one’s work portfolio, one’s colleagues and supervisors frequently change.
Anticipating the summer transfer season, the Department set a mid-April deadline for employee evaluation reports (EERs). This means that for several weeks at the end of March and the beginning of April, supervisors become stressed out and short-tempered as they try to crank out massive amounts of EERs for all of their subordinates, in addition to handling their normal duties. It also probably does not help that the EER deadline coincides with the one set by the IRS for filing taxes.
The Department requires a rating statement from the immediate supervisor and a review statement from the supervisor’s boss on every evaluation, so this amounts to a large quantity of work for some. As an entry-level officer, D’s EER is technically due on the one-year anniversary of his arrival at post. However, since his boss is leaving in early May and since D is transitioning to his next job a bit ahead of schedule, he has been forced to join the April EER rush as well. The committees that make tenure and promotion decisions are composed of Foreign Service Officers and Specialists who have never met or served with the individuals they are evaluating, so EERs and one’s “corridor reputation” is all they have to go on. It thus behooves the rated officers to take an active part in the drafting of their evaluations.
One might think that with so much going on, this would be an inopportune time for visitors. The truth is that – with the possible exception of the Christmas holidays – there is always a lot going on, so now is as good a time as any. A few weeks after Cam’s departure, S’s parents and sister arrived for a two-week stay. Having spent the three weeks in between these visits working extra long hours, we were thankful for an opportunity to leave our never-ending to-do lists behind, swap our business attire for safari casual clothing, and tour parts of Kenya we had heretofore left unexplored.