How many people do you need to put in a room before it is more likely than not that two of them share a birthday? The answer – 23 – may seem counterintuitive even if the math behind it is fairly straightforward. It takes so long for our birthdays to come around – once every 365 days – that intuitively it feels like one would need a lot more people to come together for the probabilities to align.
The Foreign Service feels like that too. The world seems so big, our diplomatic missions so numerous and the assignments, especially at the outset of our careers, so disconnected that it is difficult to imagine running into the same people with whom one previously served at a future post. The dirty little secret of the Foreign Service, however, is not only that the world is not as big as it seems, but also that our corps is small enough that crossing paths with former colleagues at a future assignment is all but guaranteed.
Already, in our first two weeks at post, we have overlapped with D’s former boss from Nairobi, who is in a gap assignment for two months; another colleague who had filled a gap in Moldova while we were there and is doing the same here; another one of D’s former bosses, who has left the State Department to work on the Hill and came to Rwanda as part of a Congressional delegation; and a colleague from our Nairobi days who is reprising the same role in Kigali. And we know of another family with whom we had overlapped in Kenya that will soon arrive here.
You may wonder what this all has to do with the bird photos in this post. The answer is simple – unlike the people above, these are a few of the familiar faces we did expect to see in our return to the region. In fact, after falling in love with birding in Kenya, one of the things that most excited D about this posting is the birding opportunities. We haven’t even left Kigali yet, and already we have seen dozens of East Africa’s most colorful denizens. There are dazzling sunbirds flitting around our yard; colorful hadada ibises roaming the grounds of the Embassy; furtive but brilliantly colored robin-chats singing up a storm outside our windows. With all these familiar faces around, it’s fair to say we think we’re going to like it here.