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at last

Nearly lost in the shuffle of Kenya’s elections, our departure preparations, and last-minute travel was the fact that S has a new job, which she started at the end of January. In fact, she had accepted the offer to join the Embassy’s Economic Section last June, but the new job required a security clearance, which took many months to acquire.

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Though S’s former job with CDC was nominally in her field, for myriad reasons it made sense for her to pursue other options. She applied and was accepted into the Expanded Professional Associate Program, through which she accepted the offer for the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officer position. Although she was ready to move on, S was thankful for her CDC job as the security clearance process is usually long, and in her case it got off to an especially rocky start because HR neglected to release her security questionnaire to the Diplomatic Security office in DC, thereby delaying the clearance process by two months.

Once submitted, the clearance itself went relatively smoothly, taking only four additional months, which is a pittance in light of S being foreign-born, having dual citizenship, and being an avid traveler. S had been hoping to have the clearance in hand by the end of last year, so that she could start the new year in her new job, but the notification she had been waiting for did not come. When we returned from our holiday travels, S decided it was high time to call the customer service office in Washington. Lo and behold, turns out Diplomatic Security had granted the clearance mid-December, but no one had bothered to give S the good news.

S returned to her CDC job only to give her two weeks’ notice and scramble to finish projects and tie up loose ends. One Friday she left one office and the following Monday morning she walked into another with a new boss, new phone, and new email address. Since then, she’s had quite the transition and a steep learning curve, as she tries to squeeze in six months of work into the three she has. Thankfully, there are quite a lot of interesting things going on in Kenya that fit into S’s new grab-bag portfolio. Besides serving as an election observer, she is promoting a biotech outreach proposal, planning a climate change film screening, and working on wildlife conservation. There are other perks to working in the Embassy too, such as the much shorter commute and the opportunity for us to have lunch together.

Although S feels challenged and fulfilled in her new job, she is still not completely sold on the Foreign Service as a career and has yet to commit to taking the entrance exam, which she’s been putting off ever since we moved to Nairobi.

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