For many, joining the Foreign Service accelerates life plans. Quite a number of D’s A-100 (orientation training) classmates got married soon after receiving their invitations to join the State Department, and we too had what D affectionately calls an Uncle Sam shotgun wedding. We obtained a marriage license in a Chicago courtroom in order to get S onto D’s travel orders and then exchanged vows a second time – this time in front of our friends and family in Maine – a few weeks after D finished A-100, planning our wedding in three months. We left for Nairobi two weeks later, barely a month after D was sworn into the Foreign Service. Needless to say, this hectic timeline did not give us an opportunity to go on a honeymoon.
Rather than forego the honeymoon altogether, we decided to defer it for a year, planning an extended “anniversary-moon” trip instead to coincide with our one-year wedding anniversary. This time, the timing worked out in our favor. Because D is on a rotational assignment, he recently changed jobs, transitioning to one of the Embassy’s reporting sections, where he gets to analyze political developments and attempt to separate fact from fiction by sifting through the dubious news reported by Kenya’s sometimes inventive media. The job transition presented a perfect window of opportunity for a long trip, as D handed over the responsibilities of his old position but did not fully dive into his new portfolio.
As a hardship assignment, Nairobi entitles us to R&R – a plane ticket for rest and recuperation that is cost-constructed against the round-trip fare to London (quite often what one would like to do when moving or traveling is much less complicated but somehow more expensive than what one is entitled to under government-issued travel orders; in such instances, cost-constructing comes into play as the government covers up to a certain maximum and the employee pays for the rest). Because we had no desire to go to London for our anniversary-moon, we cost-constructed our route, adding together a bunch of one-way tickets to exotic, but nearby, destinations that somehow squeezed in right under our allowed maximum.
R&R does not come with additional time off; the trip must be covered by accrued leave, so initially we were looking at a 3-week jaunt to Madagascar and the Seychelles. Turns out, these are not places that can easily be connected. There is one semi-direct flight a week from the former to the latter, which stops in Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, on the way. Additionally, our route required several internal flights that are likewise offered only two or three times per week. Putting together a 3-week itinerary that hit all the places we wanted to go and also allowed us to make all of the necessary – yet sadly infrequent – flights proved to be a puzzle we were incapable of solving. Rather than cut out something we wanted to do, however, we decided to add more days. After reading up on Reunion, we added a week there as well. In the end, we wound up with a month-long vacation that promises to be as exciting as it is varied.